Vorinostat Potentiates 5-Fluorouracil/Cisplatin Combination by Inhibiting Chemotherapy-Induced EGFR Nuclear Translocation and Increasing Cisplatin Uptake

Mol Cancer Ther. 2019 Aug;18(8):1405-1417. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-18-1117. Epub 2019 Jun 12.


The 5-fluorouracil/cisplatin (5FU/CDDP) combination is one of the most widely used treatment options for several solid tumors. However, despite good anticancer responses, this regimen is often associated with high toxicity and treatment resistance. In our study, we evaluated whether the histone deacetylase inhibitor (HDACi), vorinostat, may induce synergistic antitumor and proapoptotic effects in combination with 5FU/CDDP in squamous cancer cell models. We demonstrated in cancer cell lines, including the intrinsic CDDP-resistant Cal27 cells, that simultaneous exposure to equitoxic doses of vorinostat plus 5FU/CDDP results in strong synergistic antiproliferative and proapoptotic effects related to cell-cycle perturbation and DNA damage induction. These effects were confirmed in vivo in both orthotopic and heterotopic xenograft mouse models of Cal27 cells. Mechanistically, vorinostat reverted 5FU/CDDP-induced EGFR phosphorylation and nuclear translocation, leading to the impairment of nuclear EGFR noncanonical induction of genes such as thymidylate synthase and cyclin D1. These effects were exerted by vorinostat, at least in part, by increasing lysosomal-mediated EGFR protein degradation. Moreover, vorinostat increased platinum uptake and platinated DNA levels by transcriptionally upregulating the CDDP influx channel copper transporter 1 (CTR1). Overall, to our knowledge, this study is the first to demonstrate the ability of vorinostat to inhibit two well-known mechanisms of CDDP resistance, EGFR nuclear translocation and CTR1 overexpression, adding new insight into the mechanism of the synergistic interaction between HDACi- and CDDP-based chemotherapy and providing the rationale to clinically explore this combination to overcome dose-limiting toxicity and chemotherapy resistance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus / drug effects*
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cisplatin / pharmacology*
  • Copper Transporter 1 / metabolism
  • DNA Damage
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Synergism
  • ErbB Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • ErbB Receptors / genetics
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fluorouracil / pharmacology*
  • Mice
  • Vorinostat / pharmacology*
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Copper Transporter 1
  • SLC31A1 protein, human
  • Vorinostat
  • EGFR protein, human
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Cisplatin
  • Fluorouracil