HDAC inhibitors as epigenetic regulators for cancer immunotherapy

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2018 May:98:65-74. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2018.03.004. Epub 2018 Mar 10.


In recent years, anti-tumor immunotherapy has shown promising results, and immune-oncology is now emerging as the fourth major wave in the treatment of tumors after radiotherapy, chemotherapy and molecular targeted therapy. Understanding the impact of the immune system on neoplastic cells is crucial to improve its effectiveness against cancer. The stratification of patients who might benefit from immunotherapy as well as the personalization of medicine have contributed to the discovery of new immunotherapeutic targets and molecules. In the present review, we discuss the mechanistic role of histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) as potential immunomodulating agents to treat cancer. Our current understanding of the use of HDACi in combination with various immunotherapeutic approaches, such as immunomodulating agents and cancer vaccines, is also addressed. The potential clinical applications of the growing number of novel epigenetic drugs for cancer immunotherapy are widening, and some of these therapies are already in clinical trials.

Keywords: Cancer; Epigenetics; Histone deacetylases; Immune evasion; Immunotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Histone Deacetylases / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy*
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / immunology


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
  • Histone Deacetylases