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Clin Epigenetics. 2015 Dec 10;7:127. doi: 10.1186/s13148-015-0157-2. eCollection 2015.

Epigenetic treatment of solid tumours: a review of clinical trials.

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Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences and Biotechnology, University of Rome "la Sapienza", Corso della Repubblica, 97, 04100 Latina, Italy.


Epigenetic treatment has been approved by regulatory agencies for haematological malignancies. The success observed in cutaneous lymphomas represents a proof of principle that similar results may be obtained in solid tumours. Several agents that interfere with DNA methylation-demethylation and histones acetylation/deacetylation have been studied, and some (such as azacytidine, decitabine, valproic acid and vorinostat) are already in clinical use. The aim of this review is to provide a brief overview of the molecular events underlying the antitumour effects of epigenetic treatments and to summarise data available on clinical trials that tested the use of epigenetic agents against solid tumours. We not only list results but also try to indicate how the proper evaluation of this treatment might result in a better selection of effective agents and in a more rapid development. We divided compounds in demethylating agents and HDAC inhibitors. For each class, we report the antitumour activity and the toxic side effects. When available, we describe plasma pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamic evaluation in tumours and in surrogate tissues (generally white blood cells). Epigenetic treatment is a reality in haematological malignancies and deserves adequate attention in solid tumours. A careful consideration of available clinical data however is required for faster drug development and possibly to re-evaluate some molecules that were perhaps discarded too early.


Azacytidine; DNA methylation; DNA-methyltransferases; Decitabine; Epigenetic treatment; Histone deacetylases (HDACs); Histone methyltransferases (HMTs); Suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA); Valproic acid; ncRNAs

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