Background: Pancreatic cancer is a highly malignant disease with an extremely poor prognosis. Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACIs) have shown promising antitumor activities against preclinical models of pancreatic cancer, either alone or in combination with chemotherapeutic agents. In this study, we sought to identify clinically relevant histone deacetylases (HDACs) to guide the selection of HDAC inhibitors (HDACIs) tailored to the treatment of pancreatic cancer.
Methodology: HDAC expression in seven pancreatic cancer cell lines and normal human pancreatic ductal epithelial cells was determined by Western blotting. Antitumor interactions between class I- and class II-selective HDACIs were determined by MTT assays and standard isobologram/CompuSyn software analyses. The effects of HDACIs on cell death, apoptosis and cell cycle progression, and histone H4, alpha-tubulin, p21, and γH2AX levels were determined by colony formation assays, flow cytometry analysis, and Western blotting, respectively.
Results: The majority of classes I and II HDACs were detected in the pancreatic cancer cell lines, albeit at variable levels. Treatments with MGCD0103 (a class I-selective HDACI) resulted in dose-dependent growth arrest, cell death/apoptosis, and cell cycle arrest in G2/M phase, accompanied by induction of p21 and DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). In contrast, MC1568 (a class IIa-selective HDACI) or Tubastatin A (a HDAC6-selective inhibitor) showed minimal effects. When combined simultaneously, MC1568 significantly enhanced MGCD0103-induced growth arrest, cell death/apoptosis, and G2/M cell cycle arrest, while Tubastatin A only synergistically enhanced MGCD0103-induced growth arrest. Although MC1568 or Tubastatin A alone had no obvious effects on DNA DSBs and p21 expression, their combination with MGCD0103 resulted in cooperative induction of p21 in the cells.
Conclusion: Our results suggest that classes I and II HDACs are potential therapeutic targets for treating pancreatic cancer. Accordingly, treating pancreatic cancer with pan-HDACIs may be more beneficial than class- or isoform-selective inhibitors.