HDAC Inhibitors Enhance Immunotherapy Efficacy in Lung Cancer

April 4, 2016

Histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors like romidepsin might improve the efficacy of programmed cell death-1 (PD-1) blockade in lung cancer.

Histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors like romidepsin might improve the efficacy of programmed cell death-1 (PD-1) blockade in lung cancer, suggest preclinical findings reported in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

Most lung cancer patients’ tumors do not respond to immune checkpoint blockade agents like those that target PD-1. One possible mechanism underlying tumor resistance to PD-1 blockade is the failure of sufficient numbers of T cells to infiltrate tumor tissue.

Hypothesizing that upregulating T-cell chemokine expression and thereby T-cell infiltration of tumors would improve PD-1 blockade’s efficacy against lung tumors, the research team went hunting for FDA-approved oncology agents that induce chemokine expression. Screening 97 approved agents, they found one class that did: HDAC inhibitors.

The HDAC-inhibiting agent romidepsin significantly increased T-cell tumor infiltration and impacted lung tumor growth in mouse models, the team reported-and when romidepsin was subsequently combined with PD-1 blockade in several lung tumor models, the combination showed greater antitumor activity than either agent on its own.

“These results suggest that combination of HDAC inhibitors with PD-1 blockade represent a promising strategy for lung cancer treatment,” said senior study author Amer A. Beg, PhD, of the Moffitt Cancer Center’s Immunology Program, in a news release.

Romidepsin and other HDAC inhibitors have already been approved by the FDA for use against lymphoma and other hematologic cancers, Dr. Beg noted.

The combination will next be tested in several clinical trials, including a study of patients diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) at Moffitt Cancer Center.