Histone-deacetylase inhibitors: novel drugs for the treatment of cancer

Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2002 Apr;1(4):287-99. doi: 10.1038/nrd772.


The opposing actions of histone acetyltransferases (HATs) and histone deacetylases (HDACs) allow gene expression to be exquisitely regulated through chromatin remodelling. Aberrant transcription due to altered expression or mutation of genes that encode HATs, HDACs or their binding partners, is a key event in the onset and progression of cancer. HDAC inhibitors can reactivate gene expression and inhibit the growth and survival of tumour cells. The remarkable tumour specificity of these compounds, and their potency in vitro and in vivo, underscore the potential of HDAC inhibitors as exciting new agents for the treatment of cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • DNA Methylation
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors*
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Chromatin
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
  • Histones