The potential of iron chelators of the pyridoxal isonicotinoyl hydrazone class as effective antiproliferative agents

DR Richardson, EH Tran and P Ponka


Numerous studies have suggested that iron (Fe) chelators such as desferrioxamine (DFO) may be useful antitumor agents (Blatt and Stitely, Cancer Res 47:1749, 1987; Becton and Bryles, Cancer Res 48:7189, 1988). Recent work with several analogues of the lipophilic Fe chelator, pyridoxal isonicotinoyl hydrazone (PIH), indicate that some of these ligands are considerably more efficient than DFO both in terms of their Fe chelation efficacy and at preventing 3H-thymidine incorporation by neuroblastoma (NB) cells (Richardson and Ponka, J Lab Clin Med 124:660, 1994). Considering this fact, the present study was designed to test the antiproliferative effect of a wide range of PIH analogues to identify the most active compounds. A total of 36 ligands have been examined that were synthesized by condensation of three types of aromatic aldehydes (pyridoxal, salicylaldehyde, and 2-hydroxy-1- naphthyladehyde) with a range of acid hydrazides. The effects of these chelators were assessed using the human NB cell line, SK-N-MC. Although PIH was far more effective than DFO at preventing Fe uptake from transferrin, it was less effective than DFO at preventing cellular proliferation (DFO ID50 = 22 mumol/L; PIH ID50 = 75 mumol/L). In contrast, 14 PIH analogues were far more efficient than DFO at preventing proliferation (ID50 = 1 to 7 mumol/L) and may have potential as antitumor agents. The most effective compounds were those hydrazones derived from 2-hydroxy-1-naphthylaldehyde. Most of the PIH analogues were considerably more effective than DFO at both preventing 59Fe uptake from 59Fe-transferrin and in mobilizing 59Fe from prelabeled NB cells. In addition, a linear relationship between Fe chelation efficacy and antiproliferative activity was found only for hydrazones derived from salicylaldehyde. Apart from gallium (Ga) nitrate having an antiproliferative effect by itself, this metal potentiated the antiproliferative effect of PIH but not that of DFO. Spectrophotometric studies showed that PIH could chelate Ga, and it can be suggested that, like the PIH-Fe complex that donates Fe to reticulocytes (Ponka et al, Biochim Biophys Acta 718:151, 1982), the PIH-Ga complex may efficiently bestow Ga to NB cells. The results suggest that analogues of PIH deserve further vigorous investigation because they may be useful therapeutic agents for the treatment of cancer.