Unlocking the chromatin of adenoid cystic carcinomas using HDAC inhibitors sensitize cancer stem cells to cisplatin and induces tumor senescence

Stem Cell Res. 2017 May;21:94-105. doi: 10.1016/j.scr.2017.04.003. Epub 2017 Apr 8.


Adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC) is an uncommon malignancy of the salivary glands that is characterized by local recurrence and distant metastasis due to its resistance to conventional therapy. Platinum-based therapies have been extensively explored as a treatment for ACC, but they show little effectiveness. Studies have shown that a specific group of tumor cells, harboring characteristics of cancer stem cells (CSCs), are involved in chemoresistance of myeloid leukemias, breast, colorectal and pancreatic carcinomas. Therapeutic strategies that target CSCs improve the survival of patients by decreasing the rates of tumor relapse, and epigenetic drugs, such as histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi), have shown promising results in targeting CSCs. In this study, we investigated the effect of the HDACi Suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (Vorinostat), and cisplatin, alone or in combination, on CSCs and non-CSCs from ACC. We used CSCs as a biological marker for tumor resistance to therapy in patient-derived xenograft (PDX) samples and ACC primary cells. We found that cisplatin reduced tumor viability, but enriched the population of CSCs. Systemic administration of Vorinostat reduced the number of detectable CSCs in vivo and in vitro, and a low dose of Vorinostat decreased tumor cell viability. However, the combination of Vorinostat and cisplatin was extremely effective in depleting CSCs and reducing tumor viability in all ACC primary cells by activating cellular senescence. These observations suggest that HDACi and intercalating agents act more efficiently in combination to destroy tumor cells and their stem cells.

Keywords: Adenoid cystic carcinoma; Cancer stem cells; Chemoresistance; Cisplatin; Vorinostat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Adenoid Cystic / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Adenoid Cystic / metabolism
  • Chromatin / metabolism*
  • Cisplatin / pharmacology
  • Cisplatin / therapeutic use*
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology


  • Chromatin
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
  • Cisplatin