Nucleoside and nucleobase antimetabolites have substantially impacted treatment of cancer and infections. Their close resemblance to natural analogs gives them the power to interfere with a variety of intracellular targets, which on one hand gives them high potency, but on the other hand incurs severe side effects, especially of the chemotherapeutics used against malignancies. Therefore, the development of novel nucleoside analogs with widened therapeutic windows represents an attractive target to synthetic organic and medicinal chemists. This review discusses the current antimetabolite drugs: 5- fluorouracil, 6-mercaptopurine, 6-thioguanine, Cladribine, Vidaza, Decitabine, Emtricitabine, Abacavir, Sorivudine, Clofarabine, Fludarabine, and Nelarabine; gives insight into the nucleoside drug candidates that are being developed; and outlines the approaches to nucleobase modifications that may help discover novel bioactive nucleoside analogs with the mechanism of action focused on termination of DNA synthesis, which is expected to diminish the off-target toxicity in non-proliferating human cells.
Keywords: Antimetabolites, Anticancer and anti-microbial chemotherapeutics, Modified nucleobases, Nucleosides