Background: Epigenetic silencing by promoter methylation and chromatin remodelling affects hundreds of genes and is a causal event for lung cancer. Treatment of patients with low doses of the demethylating agent 5-azacytidine in combination with the histone deacetylase inhibitor entinostat has yielded clinical responses. The subcutaneous dosing route for consecutive days and reduced bioavailability of 5-azacytidine because of inactivation by cytidine deaminase may limit the expansion of epigenetic therapy into Phase III trials. To mitigate these barriers, an aerosol of 5-azacytidine was generated and characterised.
Methods: The effect of aerosol vs systemic delivery of 5-azacytidine on tumour burden and molecular response of engrafted lung tumours in the nude rat was compared.
Results: Pharmacokinetics revealed major improvement in the half-life of 5-azacytidine in lung tissue with aerosol delivery. Aerosolised 5-azacytidine significantly reduced lung tumour burden and induced global demethylation of the epigenome at one-third of the comparable effective systemic dose. High commonality for demethylation of genes was seen in tumours sampled throughout lung lobes and across treated animals receiving the aerosolised drug.
Conclusion: Collectively, these findings show that aerosolised 5-azacytidine targets the lung, effectively reprogrammes the epigenome of tumours, and is a promising approach to combine with other drugs for treating lung cancer.