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Discovery of the 3-Amino-1,2,4-triazine-Based Library as Selective PDK1 Inhibitors with Therapeutic Potential in Highly Aggressive Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma

  • Authors: Carbone, Daniela; De Franco, Michele; Pecoraro, Camilla; Bassani, Davide; Pavan, Matteo; Cascioferro, Stella; Parrino, Barbara; Cirrincione, Girolamo; Dall'Acqua, Stefano; Moro, Stefano; Gandin, Valentina; Diana, Patrizia
  • Publication year: 2023
  • Type: Articolo in rivista
  • OA Link:


Pyruvate dehydrogenase kinases (PDKs) are serine/threonine kinases, that are directly involved in altered cancer cell metabolism, resulting in cancer aggressiveness and resistance. Dichloroacetic acid (DCA) is the first PDK inhibitor that has entered phase II clinical; however, several side effects associated with weak anticancer activity and excessive drug dose (100 mg/kg) have led to its limitation in clinical application. Building upon a molecular hybridization approach, a small library of 3-amino-1,2,4-triazine derivatives has been designed, synthesized, and characterized for their PDK inhibitory activity using in silico, in vitro, and in vivo assays. Biochemical screenings showed that all synthesized compounds are potent and subtype-selective inhibitors of PDK. Accordingly, molecular modeling studies revealed that a lot of ligands can be properly placed inside the ATP-binding site of PDK1. Interestingly, 2D and 3D cell studies revealed their ability to induce cancer cell death at low micromolar doses, being extremely effective against human pancreatic KRAS mutated cancer cells. Cellular mechanistic studies confirm their ability to hamper the PDK/PDH axis, thus leading to metabolic/redox cellular impairment, and to ultimately trigger apoptotic cancer cell death. Remarkably, preliminary in vivo studies performed on a highly aggressive and metastatic Kras-mutant solid tumor model confirm the ability of the most representative compound 5i to target the PDH/PDK axis in vivo and highlighted its equal efficacy and better tolerability profile with respect to those elicited by the reference FDA approved drugs, cisplatin and gemcitabine. Collectively, the data highlights the promising anticancer potential of these novel PDK-targeting derivatives toward obtaining clinical candidates for combatting highly aggressive KRAS-mutant pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas.