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Maria Contel, Ph.D.

Maria Contel, PhD
  • Associate Member
    Natural Products and Experimental Therapeutics Program
    University of Hawaii Cancer Center
  • Academic Appointments

  • Associate Professor
    Chemistry Department
    Brooklyn College, The City University of New York
  • Faculty
    Chemistry and Biology PhD Programs
    Graduate Center, The City University of New York


  • Ph.D. (Chemistry)
    Public University of Navarra (Spain)
  • MS (Inorganic Chemistry)
    University of Zaragoza, Spain

Research Focus

My research program focuses on the synthesis and characterization of transition-metal complexes (early and late transition metals such as gold, silver, copper, platinum, palladium, ruthenium and titanium) and their applications as: a) anticancer and antimicrobial agents and b) as catalysts in reactions of industrial interest (including but not limited to oxidations and C-C and C-Heteroatom bond formation). In the cancer field the long-term goal of my research is the development of novel metal-based chemotherapeutics for different diseases that can overcome some of the drawbacks associated with the use of existing drugs. My group has focused on the synthesis of new potential anticancer agents based on gold, platinum, palladium and ruthenium and iminophosphorane ligands endowed with promising activities displaying a mode of action different to that of the most commonly used metallodrug: cisplatin. Recently, we have unveiled the potential of a water-soluble ruthenium compound as a breast cancer chemotherapeutic which shows an impressive tumor reduction size in vivo in mice (xenograft model). We have also focused on the preparation of heterometallic gold complexes as anticancer agents. Our hypothesis is that the incorporation of two different metals with anti-tumor properties in the same molecule will improve their activity due to: a) interaction of the different metals with multiple biological targets and b) improved chemicophysical properties of the resulting heterometallic compound. In this context, we have reported that such an approach is a feasible one and that new titanium-gold complexes may be promising candidates with improved antitumor properties with respect to their monometallic (titanium and gold) precursors in renal cancer. In addition, we have found that some heterometallic compounds based on ferrocene motifs like Au-Fe and Pd-Fe are potent PARP-1 inhibitors as well as highly cytotoxic in breast and ovarian cancer and we have discovered that one Ti-Au derivative shows a tumor reduction of 60% in caki-1 xenografted tumor models in mice.

Selected Publications

  • Frik, M, Martinez, A, Elie, BT, Gonzalo, O, Ramirez de Mingo, D, Sana├║, M, Sanchez-Delgado, R, Sadhukha, T, Prabha, S, Ramos, J, Marzo, I, Contel, M. In vitro and in vivo Evaluation of Water-soluble Iminophosphorane Ruthenium(II) Compounds. A Potential Chemotherapeutic Agent for Triple Negative Breast Cancer. J Med Chem, In press.
  • Fern├índez-Gallardo, J, Elie, BT, Sulzmaier, F, Sana├║, M, Ramos, JW, Contel, M. Organometallic Titanocene-Gold Compounds as Potential Chemotherapeutics in Renal Cancer. Study of their Protein Kinase Inhibitory Properties. Organometallics, DOI: 10.1021/om500965k. In press.
  • Frik, M, Jimenez, J, Vasilevski, V, Carreira, M, de Almeida, A, Gascon, E, Benoit, F, Sana├║, M, Casini, A, Contel, M. (2014). Luminescent iminophosphorane gold, palladium and platinum complexes as potential anticancer agents. Inorg Chem Front, 3, 231-241. Front Cover March Issue. PubMed: PMID pending.
  • Lease, N, Vasilevski, V, Carreira, M, de Almeida, A, Sana├║, M, Hirva, P, Casini, A, Contel, M. (2013).Potential Anticancer Heterometallic Fe-Au and Fe-Pd Agents: Initial Mechanistic Insights. J Med Chem, 56, 5806-5818. PubMed: PMID: 23786413. PMCID: PMC3880617.
  • Carreira, M, Calvo-Sanju├ín, R, Sana├║, M, Marzo, I, Contel, M. (2012). Organometallic Palladium Complexes with a Water-Soluble Iminophosphorane Ligand as Potential Anticancer Agents. Organometallics, 31, 5772-5781. (invitation to a special issue on Organometallics in Medicine and Biology). PubMed PMID: 23066172. PMCID: PMC3466594.

Publication list via PubMed

Active Grants

  • M. Contel, Princpal Investigator
    NIH/NCI 1SC1CA182844-01
    Titanium-gold-based chemotherapeutics for prostate and kidney cancer $1,413,000