: Among the different hallmarks of cancer, deregulation of cellular metabolism turned out to be an essential mechanism in promoting cancer resistance and progression. The pyruvate dehydrogenase kinases (PDKs) are well known as key regulators in cells metabolic process and their activity was found to be overexpressed in different metabolic alerted types of cancer, including the high aggressive pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). To date few PDK inhibitors have been reported, and the different molecules developed are characterized by structural chemical diversity. In an attempt to find novel classes of potential PDK inhibitors, the molecular hybridization approach, which combine two or more active scaffolds in a single structure, was employed. Herein we report the synthesis and the pharmacological evaluation of the novel hybrid molecules, characterized by the fusion of three different pharmacophoric sub-units such as 1,2,4-amino triazines, 7-azaindoles and indoles, in a single structure. The synthesized derivatives demonstrated a promising ability in hampering the enzymatic activity of PDK1 and 4, further confirmed by docking studies. Interestingly, these derivatives retained a strong antiproliferative activity against pancreatic cancer cells either in 2D and 3D models. Mechanistic studies in highly aggressive PDAC cells confirmed their ability to hamper PDK axis and to induce cancer cell death by apoptosis. Moreover, in vivo translational studies in a murine syngeneic solid tumor model confirmed the ability of the most representative compounds to target the PDK system and highlight the ability to reduce the tumor growth without inducing substantial body weight changes in the treated mice.
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