Alkylating agents are a ubiquitous family of reactive chemicals that transfer alkyl carbon groups onto a broad range of biological molecules, thereby altering their structure and potentially disrupting their function. Alkylating agents are generally unavoidable owing to their abundant presence in the environment and within living cells.  Internally, alkylating agents can arise as byproducts of oxidative damage or from cellular methyl donors such as S-adenosylmethionine, which is a common cofactor in biochemical reactions. Owing to the cytotoxic, teratogenic and carcinogenic effects that are caused by alkylation damage, alkylating agents pose considerable threats to human health. In spite of this, certain toxic alkylating agents are commonly used systemically as chemotherapeutic drugs in cancer patients, with the goal of killing cancer cells. Consequently, although alkylating agents can induce cancer, they are also used to treat cancer[1].

[1] D. Fu et al. from: Balancing repair and tolerance of DNA damage caused by alkylating agents. Nat. Rev. Cancer. 2012, 12, 104-120. 

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