• SAHA;
  • histone deacetylase inhibitor;
  • pancreatic cancer


Tumor suppressor genes are often silenced in human cancer; this can occur by transcriptional repression by deacetylation in the promoter regions, mediated by histone deacetylase (HDAC). HDAC inhibitors can block cancer cell growth by restoring expression of tumor suppressor genes. In this study, we investigated the effects of a HDAC inhibitor, suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA) on pancreatic cancer cells. SAHA inhibited the growth of 6 pancreatic cancer cell lines in a dose-dependent manner as measured by MTT and clonogenic assays (ED50 ≈10−6 M) associated with induction of apoptosis, G2 cell cycle arrest and also induced differentiation as indicated by morphology and increased expression of cytokeratin 7. It increased expression of p21WAF1 (independent of the mutational status of p53), C/EBPα, RARα and E-cadherin; these genes have been associated with decreased proliferation in other cancers. SAHA decreased cyclin B1 expression; this cyclin normally promotes progression through G2 of the cell cycle. SAHA mediated acetylation of histone H3 globally, as well as, associated with the p21WAF1 promoter, as measured by chromatin immunoprecipitation. SAHA also decreased levels of c-myc and cyclin D1, independent of an active β-catenin pathway. In further studies, the combination of SAHA and an inhibitor of DNA methylation, 5-Aza-2′-deoxycytidine, had an enhanced antiproliferative effect on pancreatic cancer cells. In summary, SAHA inhibited the growth of human pancreatic cancer cells by inducing apoptosis, differentiation and cell cycle arrest, as well as increase in the expression of several tumor suppressor genes. SAHA is a novel, promising therapeutic agent for human pancreatic cancers. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.