Nicholas James Lawrence, PhD

Where You Are:
Nicholas James Lawrence, PhD

Senior Member

"Our research concerns the development of new anticancer drugs using a combination of synthetic chemistry and natural product isolation"

Office  (813) 745-6037

Education And Training
  • PhD, Cambridge University, UK, 1989 - Organic Chemistry
  • BA, Cambridge University, UK, 1985 - Natural Sciences


Our laboratory's efforts are focused on the synthesis of new anticancer agents. The goal of the laboratory is to design and develop synthetic methodology to provide small organic molecules to act as selective anticancer agents against a range of molecular targets.

Our research concerns the development of new anticancer drugs using a combination of synthetic chemistry and natural product isolation; it involves a very productive collaborative program incorporating both chemistry and biology. One aspect of our research concerns the design and function of tumor vasculature targeting anticancer agents that interact with the elements of the cytoskeleton. We are investigating the nature of the colchicine-binding site of Beta-tubulin by the design of appropriate photo-affinity labeling agents and molecular modeling methods. Our laboratory is developing new anticancer agents based on agents related to combretastatins. These agents show potent activity in vitro and in vivo and are currently being prepared via serial and parallel synthesis for evaluation as tumor vasculature targeting drugs. The program also involves the structure activity study of complex derivatives of cucurbaticins. Natural products feature highly in our research, particularly as lead structures in the drug development process. The discovery of new bioactive natural products can often be a laborious venture. We are therefore developing novel natural product isolation techniques to help identify new structures with anticancer activity.

In addition, we focus on the development of novel synthetic methodology. This has included methods for the clean asymmetric reduction of ketones using polymeric siloxanes. We are now developing new reagents for use in design and preparation of combinatorial libraries. Our a long-standing interest in multi-component reactions based on vicarious nucleophilic aromatic substitution now provides new processes for the rapid construction of molecular scaffolds for the development of combinatorial libraries for use in the high throughput screening lab.

  • Mahajan K, Lawrence HR, Lawrence NJ, Mahajan NP. ACK1 Tyrosine Kinase Interacts with Histone Demethylase KDM3A to Regulate the Mammary Tumor Oncogene HOXA1. J Biol Chem. 2014 Oct;289(41):28179-28191. Pubmedid: 25148682.
  • Yang H, Lawrence HR, Kazi A, Gevariya H, Patel R, Luo Y, Rix U, Schonbrunn E, Lawrence NJ, Sebti SM. Dual Aurora A and JAK2 kinase blockade effectively suppresses malignant transformation. Oncotarget. 2014 May;5(10):2947-2961. Pubmedid: 24930769.
  • Trevino JG, Verma M, Singh S, Pillai S, Zhang D, Pernazza D, Sebti SM, Lawrence NJ, Centeno BA, Chellappan SP. Selective disruption of rb-raf-1 kinase interaction inhibits pancreatic adenocarcinoma growth irrespective of gemcitabine sensitivity. Mol Cancer Ther. 2013 Dec;12(12):2722-2734. Pubmedid: 24107447.
  • Blaskovich MA, Yendluri V, Lawrence HR, Lawrence NJ, Sebti SM, Springett GM. Lysophosphatidic Acid Acyltransferase Beta Regulates mTOR Signaling. PLoS One. 2013 Oct;8(10):e78632. Pubmedid: 24205284.
  • Urlam MK, Pireddu R, Ge Y, Zhang X, Sun Y, Lawrence HR, Guida WC, Sebti SM, Lawrence NJ. Development of new N-Arylbenzamides as STAT3 Dimerization Inhibitors. Medchemcomm. 2013 Jun;4(6):932-941. Pubmedid: 24073326.
  • Ucar DA, Magis AT, He DH, Lawrence NJ, Sebti SM, Kurenova E, Zajac-Kaye M, Zhang J, Hochwald SN. Inhibiting the interaction of cMET and IGF-1R with FAK effectively reduces growth of pancreatic cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2013 May;13(4):595-602. Pubmedid: 23272972. Pmcid: PMC4052463.
  • Zhang X, Sun Y, Pireddu R, Yang H, Urlam MK, Lawrence HR, Guida WC, Lawrence NJ, Sebti SM. A novel inhibitor of STAT3 homodimerization selectively suppresses STAT3 activity and malignant transformation. Cancer Res. 2013 Mar;73(6):1922-1933. Pubmedid: 23322008. Pmcid: PMC4030628.
  • Pillai S, Szekeres K, Lawrence NJ, Chellappan SP, Blanck G. Regulation of interlocking gene regulatory network subcircuits by a small molecule inhibitor of retinoblastoma protein (RB) phosphorylation: cancer cell expression of HLA-DR. Gene. 2013 Jan;512(2):403-407. Pubmedid: 23041127.
  • Patel RA, Forinash KD, Pireddu R, Sun Y, Sun N, Martin MP, Schönbrunn E, Lawrence NJ, Sebti SM. RKI-1447 is a potent inhibitor of the Rho-associated ROCK kinases with anti-invasive and antitumor activities in breast cancer. Cancer Res. 2012 Oct;72(19):5025-5034. Pubmedid: 22846914. Pmcid: PMC3463757.
  • Lawrence HR, Martin MP, Luo Y, Pireddu R, Yang H, Gevariya H, Ozcan S, Zhu JY, Kendig R, Rodriguez M, Elias R, Cheng JQ, Sebti SM, Schonbrunn E, Lawrence NJ. Development of o-chlorophenyl substituted pyrimidines as exceptionally potent aurora kinase inhibitors. J Med Chem. 2012 Sep;55(17):7392-7416. Pubmedid: 22803810.
  • Ucar DA, Kurenova E, Garrett TJ, Cance WG, Nyberg C, Cox A, Massoll N, Ostrov DA, Lawrence N, Sebti SM, Zajac-Kaye M, Hochwald SN. Disruption of the protein interaction between FAK and IGF-1R inhibits melanoma tumor growth. Cell Cycle. 2012 Sep;11(17):3250-3259. Pubmedid: 22894899. Pmcid: PMC3466524.
  • Caceres G, Robey RW, Sokol L, McGraw KL, Clark J, Lawrence NJ, Sebti SM, Wiese M, List AF. HG-829 Is a Potent Noncompetitive Inhibitor of the ATP-Binding Cassette Multidrug Resistance Transporter ABCB1. Cancer Res. 2012 Aug;72(16):4204-4213. Pubmedid: 22761337.
  • Win-Piazza H, Schneeberger VE, Chen L, Pernazza D, Lawrence HR, Sebti SM, Lawrence NJ, Wu J. Enhanced anti-melanoma efficacy of interferon alfa-2b via inhibition of Shp2. Cancer Lett. 2012 Jul;320(1):81-85. Pubmedid: 22306001. Pmcid: PMC3319810.
  • Mahajan K, Coppola D, Rawal B, Chen YA, Lawrence HR, Engelman RW, Lawrence NJ, Mahajan NP. Ack1-mediated androgen receptor phosphorylation modulates radiation resistance in castration-resistant prostate cancer. J Biol Chem. 2012 Jun;287(26):22112-22122. Pubmedid: 22566699. Pmcid: PMC3381169.
  • Pireddu R, Forinash KD, Sun NN, Martin MP, Sung SS, Alexander B, Zhu JY, Guida WC, Schönbrunn E, Sebti SM, Lawrence NJ. Pyridylthiazole-based ureas as inhibitors of Rho associated protein kinases (ROCK1 and 2). Medchemcomm. 2012 Jun;3(6):699-709. Pubmedid: 23275831.
  • Mahajan K, Coppola D, Chen YA, Zhu W, Lawrence HR, Lawrence NJ, Mahajan NP. Ack1 tyrosine kinase activation correlates with pancreatic cancer progression. Am J Pathol. 2012 Apr;180(4):1386-1393. Pubmedid: 22322295. Pmcid: PMC3349895.
  • Martin MP, Zhu JY, Lawrence HR, Pireddu R, Luo Y, Alam R, Ozcan S, Sebti SM, Lawrence NJ, Schönbrunn E. A novel mechanism by which small molecule inhibitors induce the DFG flip in Aurora A. ACS Chem Biol. 2012 Apr;7(4):698-706. Pubmedid: 22248356.
  • Li R, Martin MP, Liu Y, Wang B, Patel RA, Zhu JY, Sun N, Pireddu R, Lawrence NJ, Li J, Haura EB, Sung SS, Guida WC, Schonbrunn E, Sebti SM. Fragment-based and structure-guided discovery and optimization of rho kinase inhibitors. J Med Chem. 2012 Mar;55(5):2474-2478. Pubmedid: 22272748.
  • Alamanda V, Singh S, Lawrence NJ, Chellappan SP. Nicotine-mediated induction of E-selectin in aortic endothelial cells requires Src kinase and E2F1 transcriptional activity. Biochem Bioph Res Co. 2012 Feb;418(1):56-61. Pubmedid: 22240023. Pmcid: PMC3273677.
  • Johnson JL, Pillai S, Pernazza D, Sebti SM, Lawrence NJ, Chellappan SP. Regulation of matrix metalloproteinase genes by E2F transcription factors: Rb-Raf-1 interaction as a novel target for metastatic disease. Cancer Res. 2012 Jan;72(2):516-526. Pubmedid: 22086850. Pmcid: PMC3261351.
  • Davis R, Pillai S, Lawrence N, Sebti S, Chellappan SP. TNF-α-mediated proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells involves Raf-1-mediated inactivation of Rb and transcription of E2F1-regulated genes. Cell Cycle. 2012 Jan;11(1):109-118. Pubmedid: 22185776. Pmcid: PMC3272234.
  • Fragale A, Stellacci E, Ilari R, Remoli AL, Lanciotti A, Perrotti E, Shytaj I, Orsatti R, Lawrence HR, Lawrence NJ, Wu J, Rehli M, Ozato K, Battistini A. Critical role of IRF-8 in negative regulation of TLR3 expression by Src homology 2 domain-containing protein tyrosine phosphatase-2 activity in human myeloid dendritic cells. J Immunol. 2011 Feb;186(4):1951-1962. Pubmedid: 21220691. Pmcid: PMC4053178.
  • Scott LM, Chen L, Daniel KG, Brooks WH, Guida WC, Lawrence HR, Sebti SM, Lawrence NJ, Wu J. Shp2 protein tyrosine phosphatase inhibitor activity of estramustine phosphate and its triterpenoid analogs. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2011 Jan;21(2):730-733. Pubmedid: 21193311. Pmcid: PMC3034307.
  • Singh S, Davis R, Alamanda V, Pireddu R, Pernazza D, Sebti S, Lawrence N, Chellappan S. Rb-Raf-1 interaction disruptor RRD-251 induces apoptosis in metastatic melanoma cells and synergizes with dacarbazine. Mol Cancer Ther. 2010 Dec;9(12):3330-3341. Pubmedid: 21139044. Pmcid: PMC3058238.
  • Berndt N, Yang H, Trinczek B, Betzi S, Zhang Z, Wu B, Lawrence NJ, Pellecchia M, Schönbrunn E, Cheng JQ, Sebti SM. The Akt activation inhibitor TCN-P inhibits Akt phosphorylation by binding to the PH domain of Akt and blocking its recruitment to the plasma membrane. Cell Death Differ. 2010 Nov;17(11):1795-1804. Pubmedid: 20489726. Pmcid: PMC2952662.
  • Mahajan K, Challa S, Coppola D, Lawrence H, Luo Y, Gevariya H, Zhu W, Chen YA, Lawrence NJ, Mahajan NP. Effect of Ack1 tyrosine kinase inhibitor on ligand-independent androgen receptor activity. Prostate. 2010 Sep;70(12):1274-1285. Pubmedid: 20623637. Pmcid: PMC3953126.
  • Chen L, Pernazza D, Scott LM, Lawrence HR, Ren Y, Luo Y, Wu X, Sung SS, Guida WC, Sebti SM, Lawrence NJ, Wu J. Inhibition of cellular Shp2 activity by a methyl ester analog of SPI-112. Biochem Pharmacol. 2010 Sep;80(6):801-810. Pubmedid: 20510203. Pmcid: PMC2906681.
  • Scott LM, Lawrence HR, Sebti SM, Lawrence NJ, Wu J. Targeting protein tyrosine phosphatases for anticancer drug discovery. Curr Pharm Des. 2010 Jun;16(16):1843-1862. Pubmedid: 20337577. Pmcid: PMC3076191.
  • Ducki S, Mackenzie G, Greedy B, Armitage S, Chabert JF, Bennett E, Nettles J, Snyder JP, Lawrence NJ. Combretastatin-like chalcones as inhibitors of microtubule polymerisation. Part 2: Structure-based discovery of alpha-aryl chalcones. Bioorgan Med Chem. 2009 Nov;17(22):7711-7722. Pubmedid: 19837594.
  • Ducki S, Rennison D, Woo M, Kendall A, Chabert JF, McGown AT, Lawrence NJ. Combretastatin-like chalcones as inhibitors of microtubule polymerization. Part 1: synthesis and biological evaluation of antivascular activity. Bioorg Med Chem. 2009 Nov;17(22):7698-7710. Pubmedid: 19837593.
  • Lawrence HR, Li Z, Yip ML, Sung SS, Lawrence NJ, McLaughlin ML, McManus GJ, Zaworotko MJ, Sebti SM, Chen J, Guida WC. Identification of a disruptor of the MDM2-p53 protein-protein interaction facilitated by high-throughput in silico docking. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2009 Oct;19(14):3756-3759. Pubmedid: 19457663. Pmcid: PMC2754843.
  • Wei S, Chen X, Rocha K, Epling-Burnette PK, Djeu JY, Liu Q, Byrd J, Sokol L, Lawrence N, Pireddu R, Dewald G, Williams A, Maciejewski J, List A. A critical role for phosphatase haplodeficiency in the selective suppression of deletion 5q MDS by lenalidomide. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Aug;106(31):12974-12979. Pubmedid: 19470455. Pmcid: PMC2722346.
  • Butler LC, Blanchard GB, Kabla AJ, Lawrence NJ, Welchman DP, Mahadevan L, Adams RJ, Sanson B. Cell shape changes indicate a role for extrinsic tensile forces in Drosophila germ-band extension. Nat Cell Biol. 2009 Jul;11(7):859-864. Pubmedid: 19503074.
  • Wei J, Kitada S, Rega MF, Emdadi A, Yuan H, Cellitti J, Stebbins JL, Zhai D, Sun J, Yang L, Dahl R, Zhang Z, Wu B, Wang S, Reed TA, Wang HG, Lawrence N, Sebti S, Reed JC, Pellecchia M. Apogossypol derivatives as antagonists of antiapoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins. Mol Cancer Ther. 2009 Apr;8(4):904-913. Pubmedid: 19372563. Pmcid: PMC2750823.
  • Lawrence HR, Pireddu R, Chen L, Luo Y, Sung SS, Szymanski AM, Yip ML, Guida WC, Sebti SM, Wu J, Lawrence NJ. Inhibitors of Src homology-2 domain containing protein tyrosine phosphatase-2 (Shp2) based on oxindole scaffolds. J Med Chem. 2008 Aug;51(16):4948-4956. Pubmedid: 18680359. Pmcid: PMC2744494.
  • Kinkade R, Dasgupta P, Carie A, Pernazza D, Carless M, Pillai S, Lawrence N, Sebti SM, Chellappan S. A small molecule disruptor of Rb/Raf-1 interaction inhibits cell proliferation, angiogenesis, and growth of human tumor xenografts in nude mice. Cancer Res. 2008 May;68(10):3810-3818. Pubmedid: 18483265. Pmcid: PMC3233839.
  • Siddiquee K, Zhang S, Guida WC, Blaskovich MA, Greedy B, Lawrence HR, Yip ML, Jove R, McLaughlin MM, Lawrence NJ, Sebti SM, Turkson J. Selective chemical probe inhibitor of Stat3, identified through structure-based virtual screening, induces antitumor activity. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 May;104(18):7391-7396. Pubmedid: 17463090. Pmcid: PMC1863497.
  • Lawrence N, Patterson R, Ooi L, Cook D, Ducki S. Effects of alpha-substitutions on structure and biological activity of anticancer chalcones. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2006 Nov;16(22):5844-5848. Pubmedid: 16949281.
  • Chen L, Sung SS, Yip ML, Lawrence HR, Ren Y, Guida WC, Sebti SM, Lawrence NJ, Wu J. Discovery of a novel shp2 protein tyrosine phosphatase inhibitor. Mol Pharmacol. 2006 Aug;70(2):562-570. Pubmedid: 16717135.
  • Guo F, Rocha K, Bali P, Pranpat M, Fiskus W, Boyapalle S, Kumaraswamy S, Balasis M, Greedy B, Armitage ES, Lawrence N, Bhalla K. Abrogation of heat shock protein 70 induction as a strategy to increase antileukemia activity of heat shock protein 90 inhibitor 17-allylamino-demethoxy geldanamycin. Cancer Res. 2005 Nov;65(22):10536-10544. Pubmedid: 16288046.
  • Hadfield J, Gaukroger K, Hirst N, Weston A, Lawrence N, McGown A. Synthesis and evaluation of double bond substituted combretastatins. Eur J Med Chem. 2005 Jun;40(6):529-541. Pubmedid: 15922837.
  • Ducki S, Mackenzie G, Lawrence N, Snyder JP. Quantitative structure-activity relationship (5D-QSAR) study of combretastatin-like analogues as inhibitors of tubulin assembly. J Med Chem. 2005 Jan;48(2):457-465. Pubmedid: 15658859.
  • Lawrence N, McGown A. The chemistry and biology of antimitotic chalcones and related enone systems. Curr Pharm Des. 2005;11(13):1679-1693. Pubmedid: 15892668.
  • Lawrence NJ, Davies CA, Gray M. Synthesis of diaryl acetates and oxindoles via a sequential VNS(Ar)-S(N)Ar three-component coupling reaction. Org Lett. 2004;6:4957-4960. Pubmedid: 15606109.
  • Lawrence N, Rennison D, McGown A, Hadfield J. The total synthesis of an aurone isolated from Uvaria hamiltonii: aurones and flavones as anticancer agents. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2003;13(21):3759-3763. Pubmedid: 14552774.
  • Gaukroger K, Hadfield J, Lawrence N, Nolan S, McGown A. Structural requirements for the interaction of combretastatins with tubulin: how important is the trimethoxy unit. Org Biomol Chem. 2003;1(17):3033-3037. Pubmedid: 14518125.
  • Lawrence N, Liddle J, Bushell S, Jackson D. A three-component coupling process based on vicarious nucleophilic substitution (VNS(AR))-alkylation reactions: an approach to indoprofen and derivatives. J Org Chem. 2002 Jan;67(2):457-464. Pubmedid: 11798318.
  • Gaukroger K, Hadfield JA, Hepworth LA, Lawrence NJ, McGown AT. Novel syntheses of cis and trans isomers of combretastatin A-4. J Org Chem. 2001 Nov;66(24):8135-8138. Pubmedid: 11722216.
  • Lawrence NJ, Rennison D, Woo M, McGown AT, Hadfield JA. Antimitotic and cell growth inhibitory properties of combretastatin A-4-like ethers. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2001 Jan;11(1):51-54. Pubmedid: 11140732.
  • Lawrence N, McGown A, Nduka J, Hadfield J, Pritchard R. Cytotoxic Michael-type amine adducts of alpha-methylene lactones alantolactone and isoalantolactone. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2001;11(3):429-431. Pubmedid: 11212128.
  • Lawrence N, McGown A, Ducki S, Hadfield J. The interaction of chalcones with tubulin. Anticancer Drug Des. 2000 Apr;15(2):135-141. Pubmedid: 10901301.
  • Jordan A, Hadfield JA, Lawrence NJ, McGown AT. Tubulin as a target for anticancer drugs: agents which interact with the mitotic spindle. Med Res Rev. 1998 Jul;18(4):259-296. Pubmedid: 9664292.
  • Ducki S, Forrest R, Hadfield JA, Kendall A, Lawrence NJ, McGown AT, Rennison D. Potent antimitotic and cell growth inhibitory properties of substituted chalcones. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 1998 May;8(9):1051-1056. Pubmedid: 9871706.
  • Ducki S, Hadfield JA, Zhang X, Lawrence NJ, McGown AT. Isolation of aurantiamide acetate from Arisaema erubescens. Planta Med. 1996 Jun;62(3):277-278. Pubmedid: 8693046.
  • Ducki S, Hadfield JA, Lawrence NJ, Zhang X, McGown AT. Isolation of paeonol from Arisaema erubescens. Planta Med. 1995 Dec;61(6):586-587. Pubmedid: 8824957.
  • Lawrence NJ, Parkinson EK, Emmerson A. Benzoyl peroxide interferes with metabolic co-operation between cultured human epidermal keratinocytes. Carcinogenesis. 1984 Mar;5(3):419-421. Pubmedid: 6705146.
  • Lawrence N, Rennison D, McGown A, Ducki S, Gul L, Hadfield J, Khan N. Linked parallel synthesis and MTT bioassay screening of substituted chalcones. J Comb Chem. 3(5):421-426. Pubmedid: 11549359.
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