In patients with advanced solid tumors, including sarcoma, the combination of panobinostat, a histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor, and the anthracycline epirubicin demonstrated a correlation between neutropenia, peripheral blood mononucleocyte (PBMC) histone acetylation, and clinical benefit. Acquired topoisomerase resistance was reversed in 8 of 14 patients, suggesting HDAC inhibition reverses resistance.
In 37 evaluable patients, 4 (11%) had partial responses and 17 (46%) had stable disease. The median time to progression and median overall survival were 3.1 (95% CI, 1.8 to 4.6) months and 7.3 (5.9 to 10.3) months, respectively. All four patients with objective partial response had progressed on previous topoisomerase II inhibitors.
“The potential for prolonged treatment with an anthracycline in combination with an HDAC inhibitor speaks to the tolerability of this regimen. This study suggests that further investigation of HDAC inhibition in combination with DNA-damaging agents in defined advanced sarcoma subtypes to validate these preliminary findings is warranted,” wrote Dr. Scott Thomas of the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues (Ann Oncol. 2016 Feb 21. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdw044).
HDACs regulate protein acetylation, thereby modulating protein activity and gene expression. Preclinical studies showed that HDAC inhibitors potentiate DNA damaging activity of anthracyclines in various cancer types, including sarcoma.
The phase I trial enrolled patients with metastatic solid tumors in dose escalation cohorts, and 20 patients with advanced sarcoma in the dose expansion cohort at the maximum tolerated dose of 50 mg/day of panobinostat on days 1, 3, and 5, and 75 mg/m2 of epirubicin on day 5.
In total, 24 patients (60%) had at least one grade 3 or 4 adverse event, including neutropenia (45%), leukopenia (35%), lymphopenia (22.5%), thrombocytopenia (17.5%), anemia (15%), and febrile neutropenia (7.5%). Major nonhematologic toxicities of panobinostat were myelotoxicity, nausea/vomiting, and fatigue, which required dose modification in 26% of patients.