Epigenetic modulation of endogenous tumor suppressor expression in lung cancer xenografts suppresses tumorigenicity

Int J Cancer. 2007 Jan 1;120(1):24-31. doi: 10.1002/ijc.22073.


Epigenetic changes involved in cancer development, unlike genetic changes, are reversible. DNA methyltransferase and histone deacetylase inhibitors show antiproliferative effects in vitro, through tumor suppressor reactivation and induction of apoptosis. Such inhibitors have shown activity in the treatment of hematologic disorders but there is little data concerning their effectiveness in treatment of solid tumors. FHIT, WWOX and other tumor suppressor genes are frequently epigenetically inactivated in lung cancers. Lung cancer cell clones carrying conditional FHIT or WWOX transgenes showed significant suppression of xenograft tumor growth after induction of expression of the FHIT or WWOX transgene, suggesting that treatments to restore endogenous Fhit and Wwox expression in lung cancers would result in decreased tumorigenicity. H1299 lung cancer cells, lacking Fhit, Wwox, p16(INK4a) and Rassf1a expression due to epigenetic modifications, were used to assess efficacy of epigenetically targeted protocols in suppressing growth of lung tumors, by injection of 5-aza-2-deoxycytidine (AZA) and trichostatin A (TSA) in nude mice with established H1299 tumors. High doses of intraperitoneal AZA/TSA suppressed growth of small tumors but did not affect large tumors (200 mm(3)); lower AZA doses, administered intraperitoneally or intratumorally, suppressed growth of small tumors without apparent toxicity. Responding tumors showed restoration of Fhit, Wwox, p16(INKa), Rassf1a expression, low mitotic activity, high apoptotic fraction and activation of caspase 3. These preclinical studies show the therapeutic potential of restoration of tumor suppressor expression through epigenetic modulation and the promise of re-expressed tumor suppressors as markers and effectors of the responses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acid Anhydride Hydrolases / genetics
  • Acid Anhydride Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Azacitidine / analogs & derivatives
  • Azacitidine / pharmacology
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / prevention & control*
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p16 / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation*
  • DNA Modification Methylases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Decitabine
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
  • Humans
  • Hydroxamic Acids / pharmacology
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism
  • Oxidoreductases / genetics
  • Oxidoreductases / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics*
  • Transgenes
  • Transplantation, Heterologous
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / genetics*
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / metabolism
  • WW Domain-Containing Oxidoreductase


  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p16
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
  • Hydroxamic Acids
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • RASSF1 protein, mouse
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • fragile histidine triad protein
  • trichostatin A
  • Decitabine
  • Oxidoreductases
  • WW Domain-Containing Oxidoreductase
  • WWOX protein, human
  • DNA Modification Methylases
  • Caspases
  • Acid Anhydride Hydrolases
  • Azacitidine