The synthesis and characterisation of R3PAu[S2CN((i)Pr)CH2CH2OH], for R = Ph (1), Cy (2) and Et (3)4, is reported. Compounds 1-3 are cytotoxic against the doxorubicin-resistant breast cancer cell line, MCF-7R, with 1 exhibiting greater potency and cytotoxicity than either of doxorubicin and cisplatin. Based on human apoptosis PCR-array analysis, caspase activities, DNA fragmentation, cell apoptotic assays, intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) measurements and human topoisomerase I inhibition, induction of apoptosis by 1, and necrosis by 2 and 3, are demonstrated, by both extrinsic and intrinsic pathways. Compound 1 activates the p53 gene, 2 activates only the p73 gene, whereas 3 activates both the p53 and p73 genes. Compounds 1 and 3 activate NF-κB, and each inhibits topoisomerase I.
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