Laurence Hurley

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

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

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.


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
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.

Rha, S. Y., Izbicka, E., Lawrence, R., Davidson, K., Sun, D., Moyer, M. P., Roodman, G. D., Hurley, L., & Hoff, D. V. (2000). Effect of telomere and telomerase interactive agents on human tumor and normal cell lines. Clinical Cancer Research, 6(3), 987-993.

PMID: 10741725;Abstract:

Shortening of telomeres along with an up-regulation of telomerase is implicated in the immortality of tumor cells. Targeting either telomeres or telomerase with specific compounds has been proposed as an anticancer strategy. Because telomerase activity and telomeres are found in normal cells, telomere or telomerase targeting agents could induce side effects in normal tissues. We evaluated the effects of telomere and telomerase interactive agents in human tumor and normal cell lines to try to determine the potential side effects those agents might induce in patients. Toxicity of the G-quadruplex interactive porphyrins (TMPyP4, TMPyP2) and azidothymidine (AZT) were tested using a cell-counting technique against normal human cell lines (CRL-2115 and CRL-2120, fibroblasts; NHEK-Ad, adult keratinocytes; CCL- 241, small intestinal cells; NCM 460, colonic mucosal epithelial cells) and human tumor cell lines (MDA-MB 231 and Hs 578T, breast cancer; SK-N-FI, neuroblastoma; HeLa, cervix cancer; MIA PaCa-2, pancreatic cancer; HT-29 and HCT-116, colon cancer; DU 145, prostatic cancer cell line). Telomerase activity of these cell lines was measured by a non-PCR-based conventional assay. The effects of TMPyP2, TMPyP4, and AZT were also evaluated against normal human bone marrow specimens, using a granulocyte-macrophage colony- forming assay (CFU-GM). AZT showed very low cytotoxic effects against normal and tumor cell lines, with the IC50 values above 200 μM. The IC50 values for TMPyP2 and TMPyP4 in normal human cell lines were in the range of 2.9- 48.3 μM and 1.7-15.5 μM, respectively, whereas in tumor cell lines the IC50 values were 11.4-53 μM and 9.0-28.2 μM, respectively. Within the tissue types, keratinocytes were more sensitive to TMPyP4 than fibroblasts, and small intestinal cells were more sensitive than colonic mucosal epithelial cells. The IC50 for TMPyP2 and TMPyP4 in the normal marrow colony-forming assays were 19.3 ± 5.1 μM and 47.9 ± 1.0 μM, respectively. In conclusion, the in vitro cytotoxicity of the telomere interactive agent TMPyP4 is comparable in human tumor and normal cell lines, which indicates that TMPyP4 could have effects on normal tissues.

Hurley, L. H. (1987). Molecular biology and medicinal chemistry.. Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, 30(10), 7A-8A.
Hurley, L., Kim, M., Gleason-Guzman, M., Izbicka, E., Nishioka, D., & Hurley, L. -. (2003). The different biological effects of telomestatin and TMPyP4 can be attributed to their selectivity for interaction with intramolecular or intermolecular G-quadruplex structures. Cancer research, 63(12).

Demonstration of the existence of G-quadruplex structures in telomeres of Stylonychia macronuclei and in the promoter of c-myc in human cells has validated these secondary DNA structures as potential targets for drug design. The next important issue is the selectivity of G-quadruplex-interactive agents for the different types of G-quadruplex structures. In this study, we have taken an important step in associating specific biological effects of these drugs with selective interaction with either intermolecular or intramolecular G-quadruplex structures formed in telomeres. Telomestatin is a natural product isolated from Streptomyces anulatus 3533-SV4 and has been shown to be a very potent telomerase inhibitor through its G-quadruplex interaction. We have demonstrated that telomestatin interacts preferentially with intramolecular versus intermolecular G-quadruplex structures and also has a 70-fold selectivity for intramolecular G-quadruplex structures over duplex DNA. Telomestatin is able to stabilize G-quadruplex structures that are formed from duplex human telomeric DNA as well as from single-stranded DNA. Importantly, telomestatin stabilizes these G-quadruplex structures in the absence of monovalent cations, which is a unique characteristic among G-quadruplex-interactive compounds. At noncytotoxic concentrations, telomestatin suppresses the proliferation of telomerase-positive cells within several weeks. In contrast, TMPyP4, a compound that preferentially facilitates the formation of intermolecular G-quadruplex structures, suppresses the proliferation of alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT)-positive cells as well as telomerase-positive cells. We have also demonstrated that TMPyP4 induces anaphase bridges in sea urchin embryos, whereas telomestatin did not have this effect, leading us to conclude that the selectivity of telomestatin for intramolecular G-quadruplex structures and TMPyP4 for intermolecular G-quadruplex structures is important in mediating different biological effects: stabilization of intramolecular G-quadruplex structures produces telomerase inhibition and accelerated telomere shortening, whereas facilitation of the formation of intermolecular G-quadruplex structures induces the formation of anaphase bridges.