The histone deacetylase inhibitor, suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid, overcomes resistance of human breast cancer cells to Apo2L/TRAIL

Lisa M. Butler, Vasilios Liapis, Stelios Bouralexis, Katie Welldon, Shelley Hay, Le M. Thai, Agatha Labrinidis, Wayne D. Tilley, David M. Findlay, Andreas Evdokiou

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While the apoptosis-inducing ligand Apo2L/TRAIL is a promising new agent for the treatment of cancer, the sensitivity of cancer cells for induction of apoptosis by Apo2L/TRAIL varies considerably. Identification of agents that can be used in combination with Apo2L/TRAIL to enhance apoptosis in breast cancer cells would increase the potential utility of this agent as a breast cancer therapeutic. Here, we show that the histone deacetylase inhibitor, suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA), can sensitize Apo2L/TRAIL-resistant breast cancer cells to Apo2L/TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Importantly, neither Apo2L/TRAIL alone, nor in combination with SAHA, affected the viability of normal human cells in culture. Apo2L/TRAIL-resistant MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells, generated by long-term culture in the continuous presence of Apo2L/TRAIL, were resensitized to Apo2L/TRAIL-induced apoptosis by SAHA. The sensitization of these cells by SAHA was accompanied by activation of caspase 8, caspase 9 and caspase 3 and was concomitant with Bid and PARP cleavage. The expression of the proapoptotic protein, Bax, increased significantly with SAHA treatment and high levels of Bax were maintained in the combined treatment with Apo2L/TRAIL. Treatment with SAHA increased cell surface expression of DR5 but not DR4. Interestingly, SAHA treatment also resulted in a significant increase in cell surface expression of DcR1. Taken together, our findings indicate that the use of these 2 agents in combination may be effective for the treatment of breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)944-954
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2006


  • Apo2L
  • Apo2L/TRAIL
  • Apoptosis
  • Breast cancer
  • Histone deacetylase inhibitors
  • SAHA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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