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World J Gastroenterol. 2013 Feb 28;19(8):1173-81. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v19.i8.1173.

Histone deacetylase inhibitors and pancreatic cancer: are there any promising clinical trials?

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Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Medical School, University of Athens, GR-11527 Athens, Greece.


Pancreatic cancer, although not very frequent, has an exceptionally high mortality rate, making it one of the most common causes of cancer mortality in developed countries. Pancreatic cancer is difficult to diagnose, allowing few patients to have the necessary treatment at a relatively early stage. Despite a marginal benefit in survival, the overall response of pancreatic cancer to current systemic therapy continues to be poor, and new therapies are desperately needed. Histone deacetylase (HDAC) enzymes play an important role in the development and progression of cancer and HDAC inhibitors (HDACIs) have been shown to induce differentiation and cell cycle arrest, activate the extrinsic or intrinsic pathways of apoptosis, and inhibit invasion, migration and angiogenesis in different cancer cell lines. As a result of promising preclinical data, various HDACIs are being tested as either monotherapeutic agents or in combination regimens for both solid and hematological malignancies. Vorinostat was the first HDACI approved by the Food and Drug Administration for patients with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. The use of HDACIs in clinical trials, in pretreated and relapsed patients suffering from advanced pancreatic cancer is discussed. Unfortunately, clinical data for HDACIs in patients with pancreatic cancer are inadequate, because only a few studies have included patients suffering from this type of neoplasm and the number of pancreatic cancer patients that entered HDACIs phase II/III trials, among others with advanced solid tumors, is very limited. More studies recruiting patients with pancreatic cancer remain to determine the efficiency of these therapies.


Clinical trials; Histone deacetylase inhibitors; Histone deacetylases; Pancreatic cancer

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