Laurence Hurley
Associate Director, BIO5 Institute
Professor, BIO5 Institute
Professor, Medicinal Chemistry-Pharmaceutical Sciences
Professor, Medicinal Chemistry-Pharmacology and Toxicology
Professor, Cancer Biology - GIDP
Primary Department
Department Affiliations
(520) 626-5622
Work Summary
Laurence Hurley's long-time research interest is in molecular targeting of DNA, first by covalent binders (CC-1065 and psorospermin), then as compounds that target protein–DNA complexes (pluramycins and Et 743), and most recently as four-stranded DNA structures (G-quadruplexes and i-motifs). He was the first to show that targeting G-quadruplexes could inhibit telomerase (Sun et al. [1997] J. Med. Chem., 40, 2113) and that targeting G-quadruplexes in promoter complexes results in inhibition of transcription (Siddiqui-Jain et al. [2002] Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 99, 11593).
Research Interest
Laurence Hurley, PhD, embraces an overall objective to design and develop novel antitumor agents that will extend the productive lives of patients who have cancer. His research program in medicinal chemistry depends upon a structure-based approach to drug design that is intertwined with a clinical oncology program in cancer therapeutics directed by Professor Daniel Von Hoff at TGen at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale. Dr. Hurley directs a research group that consists of a team of graduate and postdoctoral students with expertise in structural and synthetic chemistry working alongside students in biochemistry and molecular biology. NMR and in vivo evaluations of novel agents are carried out in collaboration with other research groups in the Arizona Cancer Center. At present, they have a number of different groups of compounds that target a variety of intracellular receptors. These receptors include: (1) transcriptional regulatory elements, (2) those involved in cell signaling pathways, and (3) protein-DNA complexes, including transcriptional factor-DNA complexes.In close collaboration with Dr. Gary Flynn in Medicinal Chemistry, he has an ongoing program to target a number of important kinases, including aurora kinases A and B, p38, and B-raf. These studies involve structure-based approaches as well as virtual screening. Molecular modeling and synthetic medicinal chemistry are important tools.The protein–DNA complexes involved in transcriptional activation of promoter complexes using secondary DNA structures are also targets for drug design.


Hahn, T., Bradley-Dunlop, D. J., Hurley, L. H., Von-Hoff, D., Gately, S., Mary, D. L., Lu, H., Penichet, M. L., Besselsen, D. G., Cole, B. B., Meeuwsen, T., Walker, E., & Akporiaye, E. T. (2011). The vitamin E analog, alpha-tocopheryloxyacetic acid enhances the anti-tumor activity of trastuzumab against HER2/neu-expressing breast cancer. BMC cancer, 11.
BIO5 Collaborators
David G Besselsen, Laurence Hurley

HER2/neu is an oncogene that facilitates neoplastic transformation due to its ability to transduce growth signals in a ligand-independent manner, is over-expressed in 20-30% of human breast cancers correlating with aggressive disease and has been successfully targeted with trastuzumab (Herceptin®). Because trastuzumab alone achieves only a 15-30% response rate, it is now commonly combined with conventional chemotherapeutic drugs. While the combination of trastuzumab plus chemotherapy has greatly improved response rates and increased survival, these conventional chemotherapy drugs are frequently associated with gastrointestinal and cardiac toxicity, bone marrow and immune suppression. These drawbacks necessitate the development of new, less toxic drugs that can be combined with trastuzumab. Recently, we reported that orally administered alpha-tocopheryloxyacetic acid (α-TEA), a novel ether derivative of alpha-tocopherol, dramatically suppressed primary tumor growth and reduced the incidence of lung metastases both in a transplanted and a spontaneous mouse model of breast cancer without discernable toxicity.

Galbraith, D. W., Bourque, D. P., & Bohnert, H. J. (1995). Preface. Methods in Cell Biology, 50(C), xxi-xxii.
BIO5 Collaborators
David W Galbraith, Laurence Hurley
Yu, H., Kwok, Y., Hurley, L. H., & Kerwin, S. M. (2000). Efficient, Mg2+-dependent photochemical DNA cleavage by the antitumor quinobenzoxazine (S)-A-62176. Biochemistry, 39(33), 10236-10246.

PMID: 10956013;Abstract:

The quinobenzoxazines, a group of structural analogues of the antibacterial fluoroquinolones, are topoisomerase II inhibitors that have demonstrated promising anticancer activity in mice. It has been proposed that the quinobenzoxazines form a 2:2 drug-Mg2+ self-assembly complex on DNA. The quinobenzoxazine (S)-A-62176 is photochemically unstable and undergoes a DNA-accelerated photochemical reaction to afford a highly fluorescent photoproduct. Here we report that the irradiation of both supercoiled DNA and DNA oligonucleotides in the presence of (S)-A-62176 results in photochemical cleavage of the DNA. The (S)-A-62176-mediated DNA photocleavage reaction requires Mg2+. Photochemical cleavage of supercoiled DNA by (S)-A-62176 is much more efficient that the DNA photocleavage reactions of the fluoroquinolones norfloxacin, ciprofloxacin, and enoxacin. The photocleavage of supercoiled DNA by (S)-A-62176 is unaffected by the presence of SOD, catalase, or other reactive oxygen scavengers, but is inhibited by deoxygenation. The photochemical cleavage of supercoiled DNA is also inhibited by 1 mM KI. Photochemical cleavage of DNA oligonucleotides by (S)-A-62176 occurs most extensively at DNA sites bound by drug, as determined by DNase I footprinting, and especially at certain G and T residues. The nature of the DNA photoproducts, and inhibition studies, indicate that the photocleavage reaction occurs by a free radical mechanism initiated by abstraction of the 4'- and 1'-hydrogens from the DNA minor groove. These results lend further support for the proposed DNA binding model for the quinobenzoxazine 2:2 drug-Mg2+ complex and serve to define the position of this complex on the minor groove of DNA.

Reynolds, V. L., & Hurley, L. H. (1982). Comparison of properties of the in vitro and cellular anthramycin-DNA adducts and characterization of the reaction of anthramycin with chromatin. Chemico-Biological Interactions, 42(2), 141-151.

PMID: 7151226;Abstract:

The reaction of anthramycin with DNA has been examined to determine the chemical identity of the adduct which forms in a living cell and to observe the effects of the nucleosome structure of chromatin on drug binding. The chemical identity of the cellular adduct was probed by comparing various properties of the cellular adduct to properties of the known, in vitro adduct. The effect of the histones on anthramycin binding was investigated by time-course binding reactions. Results indicate that the properties of the cellular anthramycin-DNA adduct are similar to the in vitro adduct. The histone proteins associated with DNA in chromatin were found to decrease both the reaction kinetics and the final levels of anthramycin binding. Anthramycin reacts appreciably with nucleosome core DNA, but appears to exhibit a preference for linker DNA. © 1982.

Dietrich, J., Gokhale, V., Wang, X., Hurley, L. H., & Flynn, G. A. (2010). Application of a novel [3+2] cycloaddition reaction to prepare substituted imidazoles and their use in the design of potent DFG-out allosteric B-Raf inhibitors. Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry, 18(1), 292-304.

B-Raf protein kinase, which is a key signaling molecule in the RAS-RAF-MEK-ERK signaling pathway, plays an important role in many cancers. The B-Raf V600E mutation represents the most frequent oncogenic kinase mutation known and is responsible for increased kinase activity in approximately 7% of all human cancers, establishing B-Raf as an important therapeutic target for inhibition. Through the use of an iterative program that utilized a chemocentric approach and a rational structure based design, we have developed novel, potent, and specific DFG-out allosteric inhibitors of B-Raf kinase. Here, we present efficient and versatile chemistry that utilizes a key one pot, [3+2] cycloaddition reaction to obtain highly substituted imidazoles and their application in the design of allosteric B-Raf inhibitors. Inhibitors based on this scaffold display subnanomolar potency and a favorable kinase profile.