Epigenetics is the study of heritable alterations in gene expression that are not accompanied by the corresponding change in DNA sequence. Three interlinked epigenetic processes regulate gene expression at the level of chromatin, namely DNA methylation, nucleosomal remodeling and histone covalent modifications. Post-translational modifications that occur on certain amino acid residues of the tails of histone proteins modify chromatin structure and form the basis for "histone code". The enzymes Histone Acetyl Transferase (HAT) and Histone Deacetylase (HDAC) control the level of acetylation of histones and thereby alter gene expression. In many cancers, the balance between HAT and HDAC is altered. HDAC enzymes are grouped into four different classes namely Class I (HDAC1, HDAC2, HDAC3, and HDAC8), Class II (HDAC4, HDAC5, HDAC6, HDAC7, HDAC9, and HDAC10), Class III HDAC and Class IV (HDAC11). Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors (HDACI) exert anticancer activity by promoting acetylation of histones as well as by promoting acetylation of non-histone protein substrates. The effects of HDACI on gene transcription are complex. They cause cell cycle arrest, inhibit DNA repair, induce apoptosis and acetylate non histone proteins causing downstream alterations in gene expression. HDACI are a diverse group of compounds, which vary in structure, biological activity, and specificity. In general, HDACIs contain a zinc-binding domain, a capping group, and a straight chain linker connecting the two. They are classified into four classes namely short chain fatty acids, hydroxamic acids, cyclic peptides and synthetic benzamides. This review describes the clinical utility of HDACI as monotherapy as well as combination therapy with other treatment modalities such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Adverse effects and shortcomings of treatment with HDACI are also discussed in detail.