, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 297–306 | Cite as

The biological activity of auranofin: implications for novel treatment of diseases

  • J. M. Madeira
  • D. L. Gibson
  • W. F. Kean
  • A. KlegerisEmail author


More than 30 years ago, auranofin was developed for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis as a substitution for the injectable gold compounds aurothiomalate and aurothioglucose. Both the ease of oral administration over intramuscular injections and more potent anti-inflammatory effects in vitro made auranofin seem like an excellent substitute for the traditional injectable gold compounds. Despite efficacy in the treatment of both rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, currently, auranofin is seldom used as a treatment for patients with rheumatoid arthritis as more novel anti-rheumatic medications have become available. Despite the decline in its clinical applications, research on auranofin has continued as it shows promise in the treatment of several different diseases. In recent years, advances in technology have allowed researchers to use molecular techniques to identify novel mechanisms of action of auranofin. Additionally, researchers are discovering potential new applications of auranofin. Dual inhibition of inflammatory pathways and thiol redox enzymes by auranofin makes it a new candidate for cancer therapy and treating microbial infections. This review will summarize recently obtained data on the mechanisms of action of auranofin, and potential new applications of auranofin in the treatment of various diseases, including several types of leukaemia, carcinomas, and parasitic, bacterial, and viral infections.


Auranofin Anti-inflammatory Anti-tumor Anti-parasitic Anti-microbial 



This work was supported by grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Jack Brown and Family Alzheimer’s Disease Research Foundation. We would like to thank Ms. N. Gill for help with preparation of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel AG 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. M. Madeira
    • 1
  • D. L. Gibson
    • 1
  • W. F. Kean
    • 2
  • A. Klegeris
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Biology, Irving K. Barber School of Arts and SciencesUniversity of British Columbia Okanagan CampusKelownaCanada
  2. 2.Department of Medicine (Rheumatology)McMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

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