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Oncotarget. 2017 Nov 30;8(66):110367-110379. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.22775. eCollection 2017 Dec 15.

Resminostat induces changes in epithelial plasticity of hepatocellular carcinoma cells and sensitizes them to sorafenib-induced apoptosis.

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"TGF-β and cancer" group, Oncobell Program. Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute, (IDIBELL), L´Hospitalet, Barcelona, Spain.
Department of Physiological Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. University of Barcelona (UB), L´Hospitalet, Barcelona, Spain.
4SC AG, Planegg-Martinsried, Germany.
Immunic AG, Planegg-Martinsried, Germany.


Resminostat, a novel class I, IIb, and IV histone deacetylase inhibitor, was studied in advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients after relapse to sorafenib (SHELTER study). In this phase I/II clinical trial, combination of sorafenib and resminostat was safe and showed early signs of efficacy. However, the molecular mechanisms behind this synergism have not been explored yet. In this work, we aimed to analyze whether resminostat regulates epithelial-mesenchymal and stemness phenotype as a mechanism of sensitization to sorafenib. Three HCC cell lines with differences in their epithelial/mesenchymal characteristics were treated with resminostat and sorafenib alone, or in combination. Resminostat prevented growth and induced cell death in the HCC cells, in a time and dose dependent manner. A collaborative effect between resminostat and sorafenib was detected in the mesenchymal HCC cells, which were insensitive to sorafenib-induced apoptosis. Expression of mesenchymal-related genes was decreased in resminostat-treated HCC cells, concomitant with an increase in epithelial-related gene expression, organized tight junctions and reduced invasive growth. Moreover, resminostat down-regulated CD44 expression, coincident with decreased capacity to form colonies at low cell density.


Resminostat shifts mesenchymal cells towards a more epithelial phenotype, lower invasive and stemness properties, which may contribute to the sensitization to sorafenib-induced apoptosis.


EMT; HCC; HDAC inhibitors; resminostat; sorafenib

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