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Durham University

Department of Chemistry

Publication details for Prof. J.A. Gareth Williams

Dragonetti, Claudia, Colombo, Alessia, Fontani, Mattia, Roberto, Dominique, Williams, Gareth, Scotto di Perrotolo, Rossella, Casagrande, Francesca, Barozzi, Sara & Polo, Simona (2019). A highly luminescent tetrahydrocurcumin Ir(III) complex with remarkable photoactivated anticancer activity. Chemistry – A European Journal 25(33): 7948-7952.

Author(s) from Durham


Curcumin has chemopreventive properties against a variety of tumours, but it has poor bioavailability. Two new bis‐cyclometallated iridium(III) complexes have been prepared, featuring the natural product curcumin (CUR) or its reduced form, tetrahydrocurcumin (THC), as bidentate, anionic O^O‐binding ligands. The iridium THC complex is highly luminescent in deoxygenated solution and efficiently generates singlet oxygen under aerated conditions, whereas in the curcumin analogue, other non‐radiative decay pathways are competitive. The complexes are rapidly taken up into a variety of human tumour cell lines from solutions of micromolar concentration. They have negligible cytotoxicity in the absence of irradiation. When briefly irradiated by visible light, Ir‐THC becomes highly phototoxic, inducing rapid apoptosis within 2 h. The results show the high potential of such complexes as sensitizers in photodynamic therapy (PDT).