Background: Considerable evidence demonstrates the importance of dithiocarbamates
especially disulfiram as anticancer drugs. However there are no systematic reviews
outlining how their metal-binding ability is related to their anticancer activity. This
review aims to summarize chemical features and metal-binding activity of disulfiram and
its metabolite DEDTC, and discuss different mechanisms of action of disulfiram and their
contributions to the drug's anticancer activity.
Methods: We undertook a disulfiram-related search on bibliographic databases of peerreviewed
research literature, including many historic papers and in vitro, in vivo, preclinical
and clinical studies. The selected papers were carefully reviewed and summarized.
Results: More than five hundreds of papers were obtained in the initial search and one
hundred eighteen (118) papers were included in the review, most of which deal with
chemical and biological aspects of Disulfiram and the relationship of its chemical and
biological properties. Eighty one (81) papers outline biological aspects of dithiocarbamates,
and fifty seven (57) papers report biological activity of Disulfiram as an inhibitor
of proteasomes or inhibitor of aldehyde dehydrogenase enzymes, interaction with other
anticancer drugs, or mechanism of action related to reactive oxygen species. Other papers
reviewed focus on chemical aspects of dithiocarbamates.
Conclusion: This review confirms the importance of chemical features of compounds
such as Disulfiram to their biological activities, and supports repurposing DSF as a potential