Antimetabolites are structurally similar to metabolites, but they can not be used by the body in a productive manner. In the cell, antimetabolites are mistaken for the metabolites they resemble, and are processed in the cell in a manner analogous to the normal compounds. The presence of the ‘decoy’ antimetabolites prevents the cells from carrying out vital functions and the cells are unable to grow and survive. Many of the antimetabolites used in the treatment of cancer interfere with the production of the nucleic acids, RNA and DNA. If new DNA cannot be made, cells are unable to divide.
There are several different cellular targets for antimetabolites. Some common classes of antimetabolites are:
- Folate Antagonists
- Purine Antagonists
- Pyrimidine Antagonists