Document Type


Publication Date



Purpose: In the battle against cancer discovery of new and novel chemotherapeutic agent demands extreme obligation. Development of anticancer compounds with higher potency and reduced side-effects is timely and challenging.

Experimental Design: A small series of fourteen diastereomeric β-lactams (seven pairs) were synthesized through multi-step process exploring [2+2] ketene-imine cycloaddition as the key step. Comparative stereochemical preferences were studied through computational docking and validated by in vitro evaluation. β-tubulin was considered as possible molecular target and in vitro anticancer evaluation was conducted against SiHa, B16F10, K562 and Chang cell lines. Caspase-3 activation assay and hematoxylin/eosin staining of the cells were also accomplished.

Results: Better docking scores of the cis- over the trans-β-lactams indicated favorable β-lactam—β-tubulin interactions in cis-geometry. In vitro (IC50) evaluation confirmed better anticancer activity of the cis-diastereoisomers. Apoptosis-induced cell death was supported by caspase-3 activation study. A cis-β-lactam [(±)-Cis-3-amino-1-phenyl-4-(p-tolyl) azetidin-2-one, 6C] was found to be more active (in vitro) than the marketed natural drug colchicine against SiHa and B16F10 (six times higher potency) cell lines. Reduced toxicity (compared to colchicine) in Chang cells confirmed better site-selectivity (accordingly less side-effects) of 6C than colchicine. Aside from 6C, most of the reported molecules demonstrated good to strong in vitro anticancer activity against SiHa and B16F10 cancer cell lines.

Conclusions: Stereochemical preferences of the cis-β-lactams over their trans-counterparts, toward the molecular target β-tubulin, was confirmed by docking studies and in vitro anticancer evaluation. Apoptosis was identified as the cause of cell death. The lead 6C exhibited higher potency and selectivity than the marketed drug colchicine both in silico as well as in vitro.


© 2017 the authors. Published under Creative Commons Attribution License. Original published version available at

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

First Page


Last Page


Publication Title




Included in

Chemistry Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.