Histone deacetylase inhibitors as radiosensitisers: effects on DNA damage signalling and repair

Br J Cancer. 2013 Mar 5;108(4):748-54. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2013.21. Epub 2013 Jan 29.


Many cancers display increased expression of histone deacetylases (HDACs) and therefore transcriptionally inactive chromatin, resulting in the downregulation of genes including tumour suppressor and DNA repair genes. Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) are a heterogeneous group of epigenetic therapeutics, showing promising anticancer effects in both pre-clinical and clinical settings, in particular the effect of radiosensitisation when administered in combination with radiotherapy. Radiotherapy remains one of the most common forms of cancer treatment, leading to cell death through the induction of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). Cells have developed mechanisms to repair such DSB through two major pathways: non-homologous end-joining and homologous recombination. Here, we explore the current evidence for the use of HDACi in combination with irradiation, focusing on the effects of HDACi on DNA damage signalling and repair in vitro. In addition, we summarise the clinical evidence for using HDACi with radiotherapy, a growing area of interest with great potential clinical utility.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • DNA Damage / drug effects*
  • DNA Repair / drug effects*
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents