Chiral enantiomers [Cu(phen)(l-ser)(H 2 O)]NO 3 1 and [Cu(phen)(d-ser)(H 2 O)]NO 3 2 (ser = serinato) underwent aldol-type condensation with formaldehyde, with retention of chirality, to yield their respective enantiomeric ternary copper(ii) complexes, viz. l- and d-[Cu(phen)(OCA)(H 2 O)]NO 3 ·xH 2 O (3 and 4; phen = 1,10-phenanthroline; OCA = oxazolidine-4-carboxylate; x = 1/2, 0-2) respectively. These chiral complexes were characterized by FTIR, elemental analysis, circular dichroism, UV-visible spectroscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy (FL), molar conductivity measurement, ESI-MS and X-ray crystallography. The crystal structures of 1 and 3 showed both the cationic complexes to have a square pyramidal geometry. These complexes were about nine fold more potent than cisplatin against metastatic MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells, inducing apoptotic cell death via ROS generation and a massive drop in mitochondrial membrane potential. The results of monitoring EZH1, EZH2 and H3K27me3 revealed that the mode of action of 1-4 also involved the downregulation of EZH2 and it seemed to be independent of the H3K27me3 status. © 2019 The Royal Society of Chemistry.