Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) continues to be a deadly disease, with only 50–70% of patients achieving complete remission and less than 30% of adults having sustained long-term remissions. In order to address these unmet medical needs, we carried out a high-throughput screen of an in-house library of on- and off-patent drugs with the OCI/AML-2 cell line. Through this screen, we discovered adefovir dipivoxil (adefovir-DP) as being active against human AML. In addition to adefovir-DP, there are second-generation formulations of adefovir, including octadecyloxyethyl adefovir (ODE-adefovir) and hexadecyloxypropyl adefovir (HDP-adefovir), which were designed to overcome the pharmacokinetic problems of the parent compound adefovir. Given the known clinical benefit of nucleoside analogs for the treatment of AML, we undertook studies to evaluate the potential benefit of adefovir-based molecules. In AML cell lines and patient samples, adefovir-DP and ODE-adefovir were highly potent, whereas HDP-adefovir was significantly less active. Interestingly, ODE-adefovir was remarkably less toxic than adefovir-DP towards normal hematopoietic cells. In addition, ODE-adefovir at a dose of 15 mg/kg/day showed potent activity against human AML in a NOD/SCID mouse model, with a reduction of human leukemia in mouse bone marrow of > 40% in all mice tested within 20 days of treatment. Based on its chemical structure, we hypothesized that the cytotoxicity of ODE-adefovir toward AML was through cell cycle arrest and DNA damage. Indeed, ODE-adefovir treatment induced cell cycle arrest in the S phase and increased levels of pH2Ax, indicating the induction of DNA damage. Furthermore, there was an increase in phospho-p53, transactivation of proapoptotic genes and activation of the intrinsic apoptotic pathway. Subsequent investigation unveiled strong synergism between ODE-adefovir and ara-C, making their coadministration of potential clinical benefit. Expression of MRP4, a nucleoside transporter, appeared to influence the response of AML cells to ODE-adefovir, as its inhibition potentiated ODE-adefovir killing. Taken together, our findings indicate that clinical development of ODE-adefovir or related compounds for the treatment of AML is warranted.