Purpose: Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) are promising anticancer drugs. Although some HDACi have entered the clinic, the mechanism(s) underlying their tumor selectivity are poorly understood.
Experimental Design and Results: Using gene expression analysis, we define a core set of six genes commonly regulated in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) blasts and cell lines. MYC, the most prominently modulated, is preferentially altered in leukemia. Upon HDACi treatment, c-Myc is acetylated at lysine 323 and its expression decreases, leading to TRAIL activation and apoptosis. c-Myc binds to the TRAIL promoter on the proximal GC box through SP1 or MIZ1, impairing TRAIL activation. HDACi exposure triggers TRAIL expression, altering c-Myc-TRAIL binding. These events do not occur in normal cells. Excitingly, this inverse correlation between TRAIL and c-Myc is supported by HDACi treatment ex vivo of AML blasts and primary human breast cancer cells. The predictive value of c-Myc to HDACi responsiveness is confirmed in vivo in AML patients undergoing HDACi-based clinical trials.
Conclusions: Collectively, our findings identify a key role for c-Myc in TRAIL deregulation and as a biomarker of the anticancer action of HDACi in AML. The potential improved patient stratification could pave the way toward personalized therapies. Clin Cancer Res; 23(10); 2542–55. ©2016 AACR.