Nr4a1 ligands as potent inhibitors of breast cancer cell and tumor growth

Keshav Karki, Kumaravel Mohankumar, Abigail Schoeller, Gregory Martin, Rupesh Shrestha, Stephen Safe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Nuclear receptor 4A1 (NR4A1, Nur77, TR3) is more highly expressed in breast and solid tumors compared to non-tumor tissues and is a pro-oncogenic factor in solid tumor-derived cancers. NR4A1 regulates cancer cell growth, survival, migration, and invasion, and bis-indole-derived compounds (CDIMs) that bind NR4A1 act as antagonists and inhibit tumor growth. Preliminary structure-binding studies identified 1,1-bis(3-indolyl)-1-(3,5-disubstitutedphenyl)methane analogs as NR4A1 ligands with low KD values; we further investigated the anticancer activity of the four most active analogs (KD ’s ≤ 3.1 µM) in breast cancer cells and in athymic mouse xenograft models. The treatment of MDA-MB-231 and SKBR3 breast cancer cells with the 3-bromo-5-methoxy, 3-chloro-5-trifluoromethoxy, 3-chloro-5-trifluoromethyl, and 3-bromo-5-trifluoromethoxy phenyl-substituted analogs decreased cell growth and the expression of epidermal of growth factor receptor (EGFR), hepatocyte growth factor receptor (cMET), and PD-L1 as well as inhibited mTOR phosphorylation. In addition, all four compounds inhibited tumor growth in athymic nude mice bearing MDA-MB-231 cells (orthotopic) at a dose of 1 mg/kg/d, which was not accompanied by changes in body weight. These 3,5-disubstituted analogs were the most potent CDIM/NR4A1 ligands reported and are being further developed for clinical applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2682
Issue number11
StatePublished - May 29 2021


  • Breast cancer
  • Inhibition
  • Ligands
  • NR4A1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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