6-Mercaptopurine (6MP) and 6-thioguanine (6TG) are analogs of the natural purines: hypoxanthine and guanine. Both mercaptopurine and thioguanine are substrates for hypoxanthineguanine phosphoribosyltransferase and are converted into the ribonucleotides 6-thioguanosine monophosphate (6-thioGMP) and 6-thioinosine monophosphate (T-IMP) respectively. The accumulation of these monophosphates inhibits several vital metabolic reactions. Today, these thiopurine bases remain valuable agents for the induction and maintenance of remissions in patients with myelocytic and acute lymphocytic leukemia. Despite their proved clinical importance, 6MP and 6TG have certain therapeutic disadvantages, which have continued to stimulate the search for purine derivatives enhancing therapeutic efficacy. Considerable efforts have been made to prepare other novel mercaptopurine and thioguanine analogs and their nucleosides to improve the antitumor efficacy. The effectiveness of these thiopurines against certain tumor cell lines suggested that some of these mercaptopurine analogs and their nucleosides would be worthy of consideration in order to determine whether they exert a more selective effect against neoplastic cells than against normal cells or they might be useful in patients whose disease has become resistant to 6MP or 6TG. This review will focus on mercaptopurine analogs and their nucleosides as antimetabolite agents.
Keywords: thioguanine, mercaptopurine, antimetabolites, 6-mercaptopurine, 6-thioguanine, 6-thioinosine monophosphate
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