Clinical potential of histone deacetylase inhibitors as stand alone therapeutics and in combination with other chemotherapeutics or radiotherapy for cancer

Epigenetics. Jul-Sep 2006;1(3):121-6. doi: 10.4161/epi.1.3.3328. Epub 2006 Aug 28.


Histone deacetylase inhibitors are emerging as a new class of cancer chemotherapeutics and already are being heralded as the first anti-cancer drugs targeting the epigenome. Through histone hyperacetylation-mediated changes in chromatin conformation and gene expression, histone deacetylase inhibitors induce differentiation, cell cycle arrest, apoptosis, growth inhibition and cell death, which are more pronounced in transformed cell-lines than in normal cells. Additional anti-cancer effects of HDAC inhibitors include inhibition of migration, invasion and angiogenesis in vivo. Indeed, clinical anti-cancer activity has been observed using HDAC inhibitors as single agents or in combination with conventional chemotherapeutics, in phase I and II trials. Furthermore, numerous preclinical studies are suggesting a potential clinical role for HDAC inhibitors in radiotherapy either as radiation sensitizers or protectors. In this article the molecular basis for the clinical potential of HDAC inhibitors, either as stand alone cancer therapeutics or in combination with other chemotherapy agents or ionizing radiation will be overviewed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Histone Acetyltransferases / metabolism
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors*
  • Histones / genetics
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Radiation, Ionizing


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