Design, Synthesis and Biological Evaluation of Potential Inhibitors of S100P, a Protein implicated in Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer is relatively uncommon. Despite its relative scarcity, it is the fourth-ranked cancer killer in the Western world with less than a 5% 5-year survival rate. The high mortality rate is due to the asymptomatic nature of the disease and the advanced stage at which it is usually diagnosed. S100P is a calcium-binding protein that has been shown to be highly expressed in the early stages of pancreatic cancer and has been proposed as a potential therapeutic target via the blocking of its interaction with its receptor RAGE, the receptor for advanced glycation end-products. In this thesis, computational techniques were employed on the NMR ensemble of S100P (PDB Accession code 1OZO) to identify potential inhibitors of the S100P-RAGE interaction in the hope of identifying a series of novel leads that could be developed into clinical candidates for the treatment of pancreatic cancer. In silico studies identified putative binding sites at the S100P dimeric interface capable of accommodating cromolyn, an anti-allergy drug shown to bind to the protein both in vitro and in vivo. Virtual screening of >1 million lead-like compounds using 3D pharmacophore models derived from the predicted binding interactions between S100P and cromolyn, identified 9,408 “hits”. These were hierarchically clustered according to similarities between chemical structures into 299 clusters and 77 singletons. Biological screening of 17 of the “hits” identified from virtual screening stuidies, 4 of which were synthesised in-house, against pancreatic cancer cell lines identified five compounds that demonstrated an equal or greater capacity to reduce BxPC-3 S100P-expressing pancreatic cells’ metastatic potential in vitro relative to cromolyn. Compound 24 in particular, showed significant (p<0.05) inhibition of invasion of these cells at a concentration of 100 μM that was comparable to cromolyn at the same concentration. This compound, structurally distinct from cromolyn, was successfully synthesised, purified and characterised in-house alongside 39 of its analogues. Biological screening of compound 24 and four of its analogues for anti-proliferative activity against BxPC-3 and Panc-1 pancreatic cancer cell lines showed all five compounds significantly (p<0.0001) inhibiting proliferation in both cell lines at a concentration of 1 μM relative to the non-treated control. Hence, structurally distinct compounds that show promising inhibitory activity on the metastasis and proliferation of pancreatic cancer cells have been identified using a structure-based drug design methodology. These compounds, with further optimisation, could provide good starting points as therapeutic lead candidates for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.