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Clin Cancer Res. 2013 Dec 1;19(23):6520-31. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-13-0877. Epub 2013 Oct 18.

The histone deacetylase inhibitor abexinostat induces cancer stem cells differentiation in breast cancer with low Xist expression.

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Authors' Affiliations: Institut national de la santé et de la recherche medicale (INSERM), CRCM, U1068, Laboratoire d'Oncologie Moléculaire; Département de Biopathologie, Institut Paoli-Calmettes; Aix Marseille Université, F-13007; CNRS, CRCM, 7258; INSERM, CRCM, U1068, TrGET, Marseille; and Institut de Recherches Internationales Servier, Paris, France.



Cancer stem cells (CSC) are the tumorigenic cell population that has been shown to sustain tumor growth and to resist conventional therapies. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the potential of histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) as anti-CSC therapies.


We evaluated the effect of the HDACi compound abexinostat on CSCs from 16 breast cancer cell lines (BCL) using ALDEFLUOR assay and tumorsphere formation. We performed gene expression profiling to identify biomarkers predicting drug response to abexinostat. Then, we used patient-derived xenograft (PDX) to confirm, in vivo, abexinostat treatment effect on breast CSCs according to the identified biomarkers.


We identified two drug-response profiles to abexinostat in BCLs. Abexinostat induced CSC differentiation in low-dose sensitive BCLs, whereas it did not have any effect on the CSC population from high-dose sensitive BCLs. Using gene expression profiling, we identified the long noncoding RNA Xist (X-inactive specific transcript) as a biomarker predicting BCL response to HDACi. We validated that low Xist expression predicts drug response in PDXs associated with a significant reduction of the breast CSC population.


Our study opens promising perspectives for the use of HDACi as a differentiation therapy targeting the breast CSCs and identified a biomarker to select patients with breast cancer susceptible to responding to this treatment.

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