Antiproliferation and apoptosis studies of estrone pharmacophores in triple-negative breast cancer

Felix Acheampong, Trevor Ostlund, Mater Mahnashi, Fathi Halaweish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive subtype of breast cancer that shows high metastatic capability and poor prognosis. The aggressive behavior of TNBC may involve amplified EGFR expression. Currently, no targeted therapy has been approved for treating TNBC, which urgently needs novel treatment options. In this study, we report that estrone analogs with novel pharmacophores exhibited high potency toward TNBC cells through multiple mechanisms, inhibition of cell proliferation via EGFR receptor, and induction of mitochondrial apoptosis. Molecular docking studies revealed that hit analogs MMA307 and MMA321 were potent against the EGFR receptor (pdb code: 1M17) in silico and were over 10-fold more potent than sorafenib (positive control) when dosed against MDA-MB-468 cells in vitro. MMA307 and MMA321 induced mitochondrial apoptosis as characterized by condensed nuclei with fragmented chromatin, phosphatidylserine flip and modulated expressions of Apaf1, cytochrome c, and caspases 3 and 9. MMA307 and MMA321 inhibited TNBC proliferation through suppression of EGFR and activated EGFR (Y1068) expressions. Similarly, EGFR signaling pathways, RAF/ERK and AKT/mTOR, were inhibited as pARaf, pERK1/2 (characterizes RAF/ERK pathway) and pAKT, pmTOR, p70S6Kα (characterizes AKT/mTOR pathway) were all suppressed. Moreover, MMA307 and MMA321 inhibited TNBC cell growth through downregulation of cyclin D1 expression and arresting TNBC cells in the G1 phase of cell cycle. This study reports for the first time that estrone congeners with novel pharmacophores may be an effective therapy for TNBC. Findings from this research provide a solid foundation for further preclinical and clinical studies in developing estrone derivatives as novel TNBC therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1050-1066
Number of pages17
JournalChemical Biology and Drug Design
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • EGFR
  • TNBC
  • apoptosis
  • cell cycle
  • estrone analogs
  • pharmacophores

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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