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Adv Cancer Res. 2004;91:137-68.

Histone deacetylase inhibitors.

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Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York 10021, USA.


The base sequence of DNA provides the genetic code for proteins. The regulation of expression or suppression of gene transcription is largely determined by the structure of the chromatin--referred to as epigenetic gene regulation (Agalioti et al., 2002; Jenuwein and Allis, 2001; Richards and Elgin, 2002; Spotswood and Turner, 2002; Zhang and Reinberg, 2001). Posttranslational modifications of the histones of chromatin play an important role in regulating gene expression. Some of the most extensively studied epigenetic modifications involve acetylation/deacetylation of lysines in the tails of the core histones, which is controlled by the action of histone deacetylases (HDACs) and histone acetyltransferases (HATs). A controlled balance between histone acetylation and deacetylation appears to be essential for normal cell growth (Waterborg, 2002). Alterations in the structure or expression of HATs and HDACs occur in many cancers (Jones and Baylin, 2002; Marks et al., 2001, 2003; Timmermann et al., 2001; Wang et al., 2001). A structurally diverse group of molecules has been developed that can inhibit HDACs (HDACi) (Arts et al., 2003; Bouchain and Delorme, 2003; Curtin and Glaser, 2003; Johnstone and Licht, 2003; Marks et al., 2003; Remiszewski, 2003; Richon et al., 1998; Yoshida et al., 2003). These inhibitors induce growth arrest, differentiation, and?or apoptosis of cancer cells in vitro and in in vivo tumor-bearing animal models. Clinical trials with several of these agents have shown that certain HDACi have antitumor activity against various cancers at doses that are well tolerated by patients (Gottlicher et al., 2001; Kelly et al., 2002a,b; Piekarz et al., 2001; Wozniak et al., 1999).

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