Selective inhibition of esophageal cancer cells by combination of HDAC inhibitors and Azacytidine

Theresa D Ahrens, Sylvia Timme, Jens Hoeppner, Jenny Ostendorp, Sina Hembach, Marie Follo, Ulrich T Hopt, Martin Werner, Hauke Busch, Melanie Boerries, Silke Lassmann


Esophageal cancers are highly aggressive tumors with poor prognosis despite some recent advances in surgical and radiochemotherapy treatment options. This study addressed the feasibility of drugs targeting epigenetic modifiers in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) and esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) cells. We tested inhibition of histone deacetylases (HDACs) by SAHA, MS-275, and FK228, inhibition of DNA methyltransferases by Azacytidine (AZA) and Decitabine (DAC), and the effect of combination treatment using both types of drugs. The drug targets, HDAC1/2/3 and DNMT1, were expressed in normal esophageal epithelium and tumor cells of ESCC or EAC tissue specimens, as well as in non-neoplastic esophageal epithelial (Het-1A), ESCC (OE21, Kyse-270, Kyse-410), and EAC (OE33, SK-GT-4) cell lines. In vitro, HDAC activity, histone acetylation, and p21 expression were similarly affected in non-neoplastic, ESCC, and EAC cell lines post inhibitor treatment. Combined MS-275/AZA treatment, however, selectively targeted esophageal cancer cell lines by inducing DNA damage, cell viability loss, and apoptosis, and by decreasing cell migration. Non-neoplastic Het-1A cells were protected against HDACi (MS-275)/AZA treatment. RNA transcriptome analyses post MS-275 and/or AZA treatment identified novel regulated candidate genes (up: BCL6, Hes2; down: FAIM, MLKL), which were specifically associated with the treatment responses of esophageal cancer cells. In summary, combined HDACi/AZA treatment is efficient and selective for the targeting of esophageal cancer cells, despite similar target expression of normal and esophageal cancer epithelium, in vitro and in human esophageal carcinomas. The precise mechanisms of action of treatment responses involve novel candidate genes regulated by HDACi/AZA in esophageal cancer cells. Together, targeting of epigenetic modifiers in esophageal cancers may represent a potential future therapeutic approach.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)431-45
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2015


Dive into the research topics of 'Selective inhibition of esophageal cancer cells by combination of HDAC inhibitors and Azacytidine'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this