Functional activation of the estrogen receptor-α and aromatase by the HDAC inhibitor entinostat sensitizes ER-negative tumors to letrozole

Gauri J. Sabnis, Olga Goloubeva, Saranya Chumsri, Nguyen Nguyen, Saraswati Sukumar, Angela M.H. Brodie

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94 Scopus citations


Approximately 25% of breast cancers do not express the estrogen receptor-α (ERα) and consequently do not respond to endocrine therapy. In these tumors, ERα repression is often due to epigenetic modifications such as methylation and histone deacetylation. For this reason, we investigated the ability of the histone deacetylase inhibitor entinostat (ENT) to trigger reexpression of ERα and aromatase in breast cancer cells, with the notion that this treatment would restore sensitivity to the aromatase inhibitor (AI) letrozole. ENT treatment of tumor cells increased expression of ERα and aromatase, along with the enzymatic activity of aromatase, in a dose-dependent manner both in vitro and in vivo. Notably, ERα and aromatase upregulation resulted in sensitization of breast cancer cells to estrogen and letrozole. Tumor growth rate was significantly lower in tumor xenografts following treatment with ENT alone and in combination with letrozole than in control tumors (P > 0.001). ENT plus letrozole also prevented lung colonization and growth of tumor cells, with a significant reduction (P > 0.03) in both visible and microscopic foci. Our results show that ENT treatment can be used to restore the letrozole responsiveness of ER-negative tumors. More generally, they provide a strong rationale for immediate clinical evaluation of combinations of histone deacetylase and aromatase inhibitors to treat ER-negative and endocrine-resistant breast cancers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1893-1903
Number of pages11
JournalCancer research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2011


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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