DNA opoisomerase I is a potential chemotherapeutic target. Here, we designed and synthesized a library comprising of hydantoin and thiohydantoin derivatives and tested them against human and Leishmania Top1. One of the thiohydantoin compounds with substituted thiophenyl as the central moiety (compound 15) exhibited potent inhibition of human Top1 (HTop1) through stabilization of Top1-DNA cleavage complexes and showed selective anticancer activity against human cervical carcinoma (HeLa) and breast carcinoma (MCF-7) cell lines. Molecular modeling studies with HTop1 rationalized the inhibitory mechanism of compound 15. © 2015 Elsevier Masson SAS.