Our laboratory is focused on the development of practical synthetic routes to structurally complex natural products that have been shown to inhibit the growth of human cancer cells. Through the use of highly efficient, modular strategies, we are able to prepare large numbers of related structures (analogs) for evaluation as new chemotherapeutic agents, with potentially improved therapeutic or pharmacokinetic properties. The synthetic routes we are developing also allow us to prepare chemical probes that are useful for the identification of the cellular targets of the families of natural products that we study, wich in many cases are unknown. Our research thus aims to address two critical challenges facing the development of novel cancer therapies by both providing new molecules for evaluation as well as elucidating the cellular mechanisms underpinning their biological activities. Indeed, many current front-line small-molecule therapies for cancer are natural products or are derivatives of natural products, and many important cellular targets for therapeutic intervention have been identified through the use of probes prepared by the chemical modification of such molecules. Among the classes of natural products we are studying are the trioxacarcins, bacterial fermentation products with extremely potent inhibitory properties toward growing cancer cells and known to alkylate duplex DNA; avrainvillamides, fungal natural products shown in our laboratory to target nucleophosmin and exportin-1, two proteins known to play key roles in the initiation and progression of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and emerging targets for chemotherapeutic intervention; and tetracyclines, bacterial fermentation products initially developed as antibiotics that also exhibit poorly understood anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory activities in human cells.

Public Health Relevance

Many front-line cancer chemotherapies are small-molecule natural products or are inspired from natural products as lead structures. Additionally, natural products have elevated our understanding of many biological processes of specific relevance to cancer and have led to the identification of numerous therapeutic targets by discovery of their molecular mechanisms of action. Our research aims to expand the repertoire of cancer therapeutics and medicinally-relevant molecular targets as enabled by fully synthetic access to natural products with anticancer properties. We aim to develop highly convergent, modular syntheses of natural products to access large numbers of analogs which would not be available by other means. These analogs will be explored as potential therapeutic leads or serve as chemical probes to identify their underlying cellular targets.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Synthetic and Biological Chemistry A Study Section (SBCA)
Program Officer
Fu, Yali
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Harvard University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
Zip Code
Mortison, Jonathan D; Schenone, Monica; Myers, Jacob A et al. (2018) Tetracyclines Modify Translation by Targeting Key Human rRNA Substructures. Cell Chem Biol 25:1506-1518.e13
Andresen, Vibeke; Erikstein, Bjarte S; Mukherjee, Herschel et al. (2016) Anti-proliferative activity of the NPM1 interacting natural product avrainvillamide in acute myeloid leukemia. Cell Death Dis 7:e2497
Mukherjee, Herschel; Chan, Kok-Ping; Andresen, Vibeke et al. (2015) Interactions of the natural product (+)-avrainvillamide with nucleophosmin and exportin-1 Mediate the cellular localization of nucleophosmin and its AML-associated mutants. ACS Chem Biol 10:855-63
Blasdel, Landy K; Lee, DongEun; Sun, Binyuan et al. (2013) (S)-4-Trimethylsilyl-3-butyn-2-ol as an auxiliary for stereocontrolled synthesis of salinosporamide analogs with modifications at positions C2 and C5. Bioorg Med Chem Lett 23:6905-10
Magauer, Thomas; Smaltz, Daniel J; Myers, Andrew G (2013) Component-based syntheses of trioxacarcin A, DC-45-A1 and structural analogues. Nat Chem 5:886-93
Hugelshofer, Cedric L; Mellem, Kevin T; Myers, Andrew G (2013) Synthesis of quaternary ?-methyl ?-amino acids by asymmetric alkylation of pseudoephenamine alaninamide pivaldimine. Org Lett 15:3134-7
Mellem, Kevin T; Myers, Andrew G (2013) A simple, scalable synthetic route to (+)- and (-)-pseudoephenamine. Org Lett 15:5594-7
Morales, Marvin R; Mellem, Kevin T; Myers, Andrew G (2012) Pseudoephenamine: a practical chiral auxiliary for asymmetric synthesis. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl 51:4568-71
Smaltz, Daniel J; Švenda, Jakub; Myers, Andrew G (2012) Diastereoselective additions of allylmetal reagents to free and protected syn-?,?-dihydroxyketones enable efficient synthetic routes to methyl trioxacarcinoside A. Org Lett 14:1812-5
Svenda, Jakub; Hill, Nicholas; Myers, Andrew G (2011) A multiply convergent platform for the synthesis of trioxacarcins. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 108:6709-14

Showing the most recent 10 out of 19 publications