medicinal inorganic chemistry

The projects listed below are all associated with biologically active metal complexes. The emphasis is on anti-cancer drugs and our aim is to develop drugs that have a high selectivity for tumours based on their chemistry and biochemistry and an ability to penetrate into solid tumours. High selectivity will overcome many of the toxic side effects of existing drugs and allow higher doses to be used. Better penetration will enable the destruction of cells that presently escape and contribute to resistance.


SRIXE tomographic slice of a spheroid showing the platinum distribution. Alderden

SRIXE tomographic slice of a spheroid showing the platinum distribution. Alderden
et al., J. Amer. Chem. Soc., 2007, 129, 13400-1. Photo courtesy of Professor Trevor
Hambley, School of Chemistry, The University of Sydney.

Project 1

Anti-cancer drug penetration into solid tumours
For anticancer drugs to destroy a tumour they must reach all of the cells that make up the tumour. However, drug penetration into solid tumours is frequently inadequate because they have a deficient and faulty network of veins and arteries and this is believed to be a major cause of the failure of chemotherapy. In this project and those described below we are investigating how the properties of anticancer compounds can be modified to improve delivery of the compound to all cells in sufficient amounts to kill the entire tumour. Metal complexes offer unique opportunities to modify the properties of anticancer agents and to achieve selective activation in a tumour environment.

Project 2

Hypoxia selective agents
Almost all drugs used in the treatment of cancer cause serious side effects because they lack selectivity for tumours. However, our understanding of the differences between tumour chemistry and biochemistry and that of normal tissues means that it is possible to envisage drugs that act selectively on tumours. Thus, the goal of our work is to develop new agents that selectively target solid tumours by taking advantage of these differences between the tumour and healthy tissues. The aims of this project are to develop new metal-based hypoxia-selective agents with the desired level of targeting. In order to do this, we are using complexes with fluorescent tags to monitor uptake, distribution and reactivity in tumours.

Project 3

Platinum(IV) based anti-cancer drugs
Pt(IV) complexes are probably reduced in the body to Pt(II) and then act in the same way as cisplatin but the more slowly reduced Pt(IV) complexes are expected to be less toxic. The aim of the present project is to investigate various aspects of the chemistry of Pt(IV) anti-cancer compounds and their behaviour in solid tumours and models for such tumours. The work could involve preparative, electrochemical, kinetic, crystallographic, computer aided modelling, XANES, SRIXE and DNA or protein binding studies.


For further information, please contact:

Professor Trevor Hambley

Room 412a

School of Chemistry

Eastern Avenue

University of Sydney NSW 2006

Phone: +61 2 9351 2830