Novel chemical strategies for thymidylate synthase inhibition

Curr Med Chem. 2005;12(2):191-202. doi: 10.2174/0929867053363432.


Thymidylate synthase (TS) is a well-validated target for cancer chemotherapy. TS was established as the principal target of the widely used anticancer drug 5-fluorouracil (5FU). The 5FU metabolite FdUMP forms a covalent complex with TS that is stabilized by 5-formyl tetrahydrofolate (leucovorin; LV). Numerous chemical strategies have been employed to develop novel TS inhibitors that are superior to 5FU/LV. 5FU is non-ideal as a TS-inhibitory drug because it is only inefficiently converted to FdUMP, while the remainder of the administered dose is converted to toxic metabolites. My laboratory has explored the utility of FdUMP[N] compounds (oligodeoxynucleotides comprised of FdUMP nucleotides) as FdUMP pro-drugs. FdUMP[N] compounds result in potent TS-inhibition, and display many advantages relative to 5FU/LV. A number of other chemical strategies have also been employed to develop pro-drugs, or metabolic precursors of FdUMP, and several of these strategies will be reviewed. In addition to chemical strategies to develop FdUMP pro-drugs, a number of chemical strategies have been devised to develop molecules that resemble the reduced folate co-factor required for TS catalysis. The synthesis of antifolates that have TS-inhibitory activity, such as Raltitrexed, has resulted in compounds that are effective and specific TS-inhibitors and, in some cases, have clinical potential. Chemical strategies that target TS mRNA for destruction are also being explored as potential chemotherapeutics. These diverse chemical approaches to control TS activity in tumor cells for the treatment of cancer will be reviewed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Catalysis
  • Drug Design
  • Fluorouracil / pharmacology*
  • Folic Acid Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Models, Chemical
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides / pharmacology*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Thymidylate Synthase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Thymidylate Synthase / genetics
  • Thymidylate Synthase / metabolism


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Folic Acid Antagonists
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Thymidylate Synthase
  • Fluorouracil