Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2010

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Wiemer, David F.

First Committee Member

Friestad, Gregory K.

Second Committee Member

Pigge, Chis

Third Committee Member

Geng, Lei

Fourth Committee Member

Duffel, Michael W.


Natural products are a rich source of lead compounds for treatment of cancer as well as other diseases. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute, as part of their continuing effort to discover anticancer agents from natural sources, created the 60 human tumor cell-line anticancer screen to test natural products for their potential against various types of cancer. Through this screening process a family of natural products called schweinfurthins was discovered to possess potent and differential activity. Of potentially great significance, the pattern of activity that the schweinfurthins displayed in the screen does not correlate with any currently used anticancer drug, indicating that the schweinfurthins likely act via a previously unknown mechanism or on a novel target. Our group has synthesized many of the natural schweinfurthins as well as numerous analogues in an effort to probe the pharmacophore and gain understanding of the key features that are important for potency as well as differential activity. During the course of these studies, it was discovered that the right-half of the molecule is most amenable for modifications. One potential modification to the schweinfurthins is to replace the resorcinol substructure seen in the right-half of the natural product with a heteroaromatic moiety such as a benzofuran or indole system. This change may produce analogues that are potentially more active, that contain motifs that are seen in many therapeutic drugs, and that have improved chemical stability relative to the natural products. With this goal in mind benzofuran and indole containing schweinfurthin analogues were synthesized. Once these compounds were prepared, it was found that such modifications were welltolerated, and in the case of the indole analogues activity in the 60 cell-line screen was equivalent to the corresponding natural product. In an effort to improve that activity, prenyl and geranyl side chains were added to the indole system, at both the C-2 and C-3 positions, to better match the structure of the natural schweinfurthins. In addition, analogues methylated selectively on the indole nitrogen or phenol were synthesized to improve stability. The impact of those modifications on the activity was tested, and potent compounds were found. The left-half of the schweinfurthins is prepared via a Lewis acid mediated cascade of a geranyl epoxide. The protecting group that is typically employed on the terminating phenol, a methoxymethyl ether or MOM group, is cleaved during the reaction. In the past preparation of an analogue that lacked a substituent at the C-5 position, it was found that the MOM cation released during the cyclization would participate in an electrophilic aromatic substitution reaction at the neighbouring position which resulted in the formation of a benzyl methyl ether. In order to probe the scope of this reaction and its potential utility in the synthesis of natural products, several geranyl epoxides with various "protecting groups" on the phenol were prepared and subjected to the cyclization conditions. These investigations have established that stabilization of the liberated cation determines the likelihood and regioselectivity of a tandem electrophilic aromatic substitution reaction.


anticancer, cascade cyclization, cytotoxic, indole, natural product, schweinfurthin


xvii, 253 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 247-253).


Copyright 2010 John Gordon Kodet

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