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Maria Contel, Ph.D.

Maria Contel, PhD
  • Full Member
    Cancer Biology Program
    University of Hawaii Cancer Center
  • Academic Appointments

  • Professor and Chairperson
    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 (with impressive tumor reduction size in vitro in xenograft models in mice, displaying anti-migratory properties and, in some case anti-angiogenic properties). More recently, we are working on more targeted therapies by improving the delivery of some of these and other metal-based cytotoxic agents by: a) using enzyme-cleavable biodegradable nanocarriers, and, b) using monoclonal antibodies to generate potent antibody-drug conjugates that are specific to certain cancerous tumors.

Selected Publications and Patents

  • Contel M, Marzo I, Frik M, Elie BT. Arene ruthenium (II) derivatives containing iminophosphorane ligands and their use in cancer therapy. US Patent 9,555,049 B2 (01/31/2017).
  • Fernández-Gallardo, J, Elie BT, SanaĂş M, Contel M. (2016). Versatile Synthesis of Cationic N-Heterocyclic Carbene-Gold(I) Complexes Containing a Second Ancillary Ligand. Design of Heterobimetallic Ruthenium-Gold Anticancer Agents. Chem Commun, 52, 3155.
  • Fernández-Gallardo J, Elie BT, Ramos JW. Titanocene Gold Derivatives Comprising Thiolato Ligands. US Patent 9,315,531 (04/19/2016).
  • Frik M, Fernández-Gallardo J, Gonzalo O, Mangas-Sanjuan V, González-Alvarez M, Serrano del Valle A, Hu C, González-Alvarez I, Bermejo M, Marzo I, Contel M. (2015). Cyclometalated Iminophosphorane Gold(III) and Platinum (II) Complexes A Highly Permeable cationic Platinum (II) Compound with Promising Anticancer Properties.
  • J Med Chem, 58 , 5825–5841. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.5b00427 (ACS author choice open access).
  • Fernández-Gallardo J, Elie BT, Sadhukha T, Prabha S, SanaĂş M, Rotenberg SA, Ramos JW, Contel M. (2015). Heterometallic titanium–gold complexes inhibit renal cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. Chem Sci, 6, 5269. DOI:10.1039/C5SC01753J (open access).
  • Frik M, Martinez A, Elie BT, Gonzalo O, Ramirez de Mingo D, SanaĂş M, Sanchez-Delgado R, Sadhukha T, Prabha S, Ramos J, Marzo I, Contel M. (2014). 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, 57, 9995. PubMed PMID: 25409416; PMCID: PMC4266334.

Publication list via PubMed

Active Grants

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