A streamlined total synthesis of the naturally occurring antitumor agents trioxacarcins is described, along with its application to the construction of a series of designed analogues of these complex natural products. Biological evaluation of the synthesized compounds revealed a number of highly potent, and yet structurally simpler, compounds that are effective against certain cancer cell lines, including a drug-resistant line. A novel one-step synthesis of anthraquinones and chloro anthraquinones from simple ketone precursors and phenylselenyl chloride is also described. The reported work, featuring novel chemistry and cascade reactions, has potential applications in cancer therapy, including targeted approaches as in antibody-drug conjugates. © 2017 American Chemical Society.