First-in-class multifunctional TYMS nonclassical antifolate inhibitor with potent in vivo activity that prolongs survival

JCI Insight. 2023 Apr 25;8(10):e158798. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.158798.


Although thymidylate synthase (TYMS) inhibitors have served as components of chemotherapy regimens, the currently available inhibitors induce TYMS overexpression or alter folate transport/metabolism feedback pathways that tumor cells exploit for drug resistance, limiting overall benefit. Here we report a small molecule TYMS inhibitor that i) exhibited enhanced antitumor activity as compared with current fluoropyrimidines and antifolates without inducing TYMS overexpression, ii) is structurally distinct from classical antifolates, iii) extended survival in both pancreatic xenograft tumor models and an hTS/Ink4a/Arf null genetically engineered mouse tumor model, and iv) is well tolerated with equal efficacy using either intraperitoneal or oral administration. Mechanistically, we verify the compound is a multifunctional nonclassical antifolate, and using a series of analogs, we identify structural features allowing direct TYMS inhibition while maintaining the ability to inhibit dihydrofolate reductase. Collectively, this work identifies nonclassical antifolate inhibitors that optimize inhibition of thymidylate biosynthesis with a favorable safety profile, highlighting the potential for enhanced cancer therapy.

Keywords: Cancer; Oncogenes; Therapeutics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Resistance
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Folic Acid Antagonists* / chemistry
  • Folic Acid Antagonists* / pharmacology
  • Folic Acid Antagonists* / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Thymidylate Synthase


  • Folic Acid Antagonists
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • TYMS protein, human
  • Thymidylate Synthase