The synthesis and study of the structure-activity relationships of two new classes of synthetic antitubulin compounds based on 1-aroylindole and 3-aroylindole skeletons are described. Lead compounds 3, 10, and 14 displayed potent cytotoxicities with IC50 = 0.9-26 nM against human NUGC3 stomach, MKN45 stomach, MESSA uterine, A549 lung, and MCF-7 breast carcinoma cell lines. The inhibition of proliferation correlated with in vitro polymerization inhibitory activities. Structure-activity relationships revealed that 6-methoxy substitution of 3-aroylindoles and 5-methoxy substitution of 1-aroylindoles contribute to a significant extent for maximal activity by mimicking the para substitution of the methoxy group to the carbonyl group in the case of aminobenzophenones. Addition of a methyl group at the C-2 position on the indole ring exerts an increased potency. The 3,4,5-trimethoxybenzoyl moiety was necessary for better activity but not essential and can be replaced by 3,5-dimethoxybenzoyl and 3,4,5-trimethoxybenzyl moieties. We conclude that 1- and 3-aroylindoles constitute an interesting new class of antitubulin agents with the potential to be clinically developed for cancer treatment.
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