Medicinal research reviews vol:25 issue:1 pages:1-20
(E)-5-(2-bromovinyl)-2'-deoxyuridine (BVDU, Brivudin, Zostex, Zerpex, Zonavir), now more than 20 years after its discovery, still stands out as a highly potent and selective inhibitor of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and varicella-zoster virus (VZV) infections. It has been used in the topical treatment of herpetic keratitis and recurrent herpes labialis and the systemic (oral) treatment of herpes zoster (zona, shingles). The high selectivity of BVDU towards HSV-1 and VZV depends primarily on a specific phosphorylation of BVDU to its 5'-diphosphate (DP) by the virus-encoded thymidine kinase (TK). After further phosphorylation (by cellular enzymes), to the 5'-triphosphate (TP), the compound interferes as a competitive inhibitor/alternate substrate with the viral DNA polymerase. The specific phosphorylation by the HSV- and VZV-induced TK also explains the marked cytostatic activity of BVDU against tumor cells that have been transduced by the viral TK genes. This finding offers considerable potential in a combined gene therapy/chemotherapy approach for cancer. To the extent that BVDU or its analogues (i.e., BVaraU) are degraded (by thymidine phosphorylase) to (E)-5-(2-bromovinyl)uracil (BVU), they may potentiate the anticancer potency, as well as toxicity, of 5-fluorouracil. This ensues from the direct inactivating effect of BVU on dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase, the enzyme that initiates the degradative pathway of 5-fluorouracil. The prime determinant in the unique behavior of BVDU is its (E)-5-(2-bromovinyl) substituent. Numerous BVDU analogues have been described that, when equipped with this particular pharmacophore, demonstrate an activity spectrum characteristic of BVDU, including selective anti-VZV activity.