The fascinating chemical properties of N-heterocyclic carbene (NHC) complexes showed
them to be a suitable class of complexes to be investigated for their applications as drugs in the treatment
of the infectious disease or cancer. In particular, the great structural versatility provided a library
of compounds with a low cytotoxic profile, suitable candidates as new anticancer agents. Most of
these complexes have shown higher cytotoxicity than cisplatin. In the present review, the medicinal
applications of copper(I)- and silver(I)-NHC complexes are summarized. Specifically, azolium precursors
and related Cu(I)- and Ag(I)-NHC complexes of functionalized and non-functionalized imidazole-,
and benzimidazole-based NHC complexes studied as an alternative to cisplatin as chemotherapeutic agents are reviewed.
An outline of the most significant chemical features is presented: copper(I)- and silver(I)-NHC complexes tested
as anticancer drugs have been reported and a description of structure-activity relationships was made as far as possible.
Keywords: Medicinal chemistry, Antitumor agents, N-Heterocyclic carbenes, azolium salts, Copper, Silver.
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