Ionic Ruthenium and Iron Based Complexes Bearing Silver Containing Anions as a Potent New Class of Anticancer Agents

Amal Benamrane, Brian Herry, Veacheslav Vieru, Suparna Chakraborty, Supratim Biswas, Sharon Prince*, Christoph Marschner, Burgert Blom*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A series of salt complexes of the type [RuCl(η6-arene)(κ2-dppm)]+[AgCl(hfac)(PMe3)]−(arene = benzene (1a) or p-cymene (1b), hfac = hexafluoroacetylacetato) have been prepared in a facile route by reaction of [RuCl2(η6-arene)Cl(κ1-dppm)] with [Ag(hfac)(PMe3)]. The iron complex: [CpFe(CO)(κ2-dppm)]+ [AgI(hfac)(PMe3)]− (4) (Cp = η5-C5H5) was also isolated in an analogous fashion by reacting the known complex [CpFeI(CO)(κ1-dppm)] with [Ag(hfac)(PMe3)]. The complexes were fully characterised by spectroscopic means including multinuclear NMR spectroscopy, IR, ESI-MS and UV-Vis. In all cases broad signals are observed in the 31P{1H} NMR spectra corresponding to the P atom in the anion [AgX(hfac)(PMe3)]− (X = Cl or I) which suggests fluxional behaviour. Confirming this picture, the single crystal X-ray diffraction analysis of [CpFe(CO)(κ2-dppm)]+ [hfac]− (4-D) is presented, obtained as a decomposition product of compound 4 corresponding with the loss of “AgI(PMe3)”. The nature of the elusive anion [AgX(hfac)(PMe3)]− was investigated by DFT methods (BP86 functional, the ma-def2-SVP basis set for all atoms) showing a weak interaction between the oxygen atoms of the hfac− moiety and the Ag centre. Calculated IR spectra were compared to those obtained experimentally and show an excellent agreement, confirming this picture. The in vitro cytotoxicity on two breast cancer cell-lines (MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231) of all compounds is reported and compared to cisplatin as positive control. The tetrafluoroborate complexes: type [RuCl(η6-arene)(κ2-dppm)]+BF4− (arene = benzene (2a) or p-cymene (2b)) were also prepared and tested in order to elucidate the effect of the silver anion on cytotoxicity and selectivity in 1a and 2a. Moreover, the complex [CpFe(CO)(κ2-dppm)]+BF4− (3) was also prepared for comparison to 4, bearing the silver anion. In general, all complexes exhibit remarkable cytotoxicity and selectivity profiles on both cell-lines, and out-perform cisplatin. The presence of silver in the anion (in compounds 1a, 1b and 4) on average enhance their cytotoxicity compared to their corresponding BF4 analogues. The most active and selective in the entire series is compound 4, which demonstrates that these compounds represent high potential in anticancer applications. Moreover, compounds 4 and 1a inhibited the long-term survival and migration of oestrogen receptor positive (MCF-7) and triple negative (MDA-MB-231) breast cancer cell lines tested respectively. Additionally, compounds 4 and 1a induced morphological and molecular characteristics of apoptosis in MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells respectively.
Original languageEnglish
Article number121659
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Organometallic Chemistry
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2021


  • Anticancer agents
  • Breast cancer
  • in vitro testing
  • Ruthenium cation
  • Silver anion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry

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