Insights into Mechanisms and Promising Triple Negative Breast Cancer Therapeutic Potential for a Water-Soluble Ruthenium Compound

Nazia Nayeem, Sami Sauma, Afruja Ahad, Rachele Rameau, Sophia Kebadze, Mark Bazett, Brian J. Park, Patrizia Casaccia, Swayam Prabha, Karen Hubbard, Maria Contel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) represents a subtype of breast cancer that does not express the three major prognostic receptors of human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), progesterone (PR), and estrogen (ER). This limits treatment options and results in a high rate of mortality. We have reported previously on the efficacy of a water-soluble, cationic organometallic compound (Ru-IM) in a TNBC mouse xenograft model with impressive tumor reduction and targeted tumor drug accumulation. Ru-IM inhibits cancer hallmarks such as migration, angiogenesis, and invasion in TNBC cells by a mechanism that generates apoptotic cell death. Ru-IM displays little interaction with DNA and appears to act by a P53-independent pathway. We report here on the mitochondrial alterations caused by Ru-IM treatment and detail the inhibitory properties of Ru-IM in the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway in MDA-MB-231 cells. Lastly, we describe the results of an efficacy study of the TNBC xenografted mouse model with Ru-IM and Olaparib monotherapy and combinatory treatments. We find 59% tumor shrinkage with Ru-IM and 65% with the combination. Histopathological analysis confirmed no test-article-related toxicity. Immunohistochemical analysis indicated an inhibition of the angiogenic marker CD31 and increased levels of apoptotic cleaved caspase 3 marker, along with a slight inhibition of p-mTOR. Taken together, the effects of Ru-IM in vitro show similar trends and translation in vivo. Our investigation underscores the therapeutic potential of Ru-IM in addressing the challenges posed by TNBC as evidenced by its robust efficacy in inhibiting key cancer hallmarks, substantial tumor reduction, and minimal systemic toxicity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1364-1376
Number of pages13
JournalACS Pharmacology and Translational Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - 10 May 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • chemotherapeutics
  • in vivo
  • mechanisms
  • ruthenium compounds
  • triple negative breast cancer


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