Pharmaceutics. 2023 Jul 29;15(8):2044. doi: 10.3390/pharmaceutics15082044.
Ferrocene has been the most used organometallic moiety introduced in organic and bioinorganic drugs to cure cancers and various other diseases. Following several pioneering studies, two real breakthroughs occurred in 1996 and 1997. In 1996, Jaouen et al. reported ferrocifens, ferrocene analogs of tamoxifen, the chemotherapeutic for hormone-dependent breast cancer. Several ferrocifens are now in preclinical evaluation. Independently, in 1997, ferroquine, an analog of the antimalarial drug chloroquine upon the introduction of a ferrocenyl substituent in the carbon chain, was reported by the Biot-Brocard group and found to be active against both chloroquine-sensitive and chloroquine-resistant strains of Plasmodium falciparum. Ferroquine, in combination with artefenomel, completed phase IIb clinical evaluation in 2019. More than 1000 studies have been published on ferrocenyl-containing pharmacophores against infectious diseases, including parasitic, bacterial, fungal, and viral infections, but the relationship between structure and biological activity has been scarcely demonstrated, unlike for ferrocifens and ferroquines. In a majority of ferrocene-containing drugs, however, the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), in particular the OH. radical, produced by Fenton catalysis, plays a key role and is scrutinized in this mini-review, together with the supramolecular approach utilizing drug delivery nanosystems, such as micelles, metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), polymers, and dendrimers.