Background: Treatment options for sarcoma are limited. Histone deacetylase inhibitors increase the efficacy of topoisomerase II inhibitors by promoting access to chromatin and by down-regulating DNA repair. Thus, combined panobinostat and epirubicin therapy was evaluated to treat refractory sarcoma. Patients and methods: Patients with advanced solid tumors were enrolled in a 3 + 3 dose-escalation phase I trial of panobinostat given on days 1, 3, and 5 followed by 75 mg/m2 of epirubicin on day 5 in 21-day cycles, with a dose expansion at maximum tolerated dose (MTD) in 20 sarcoma patients. Peripheral blood mononucleocyte histone acetylation was also evaluated. Results: Forty patients received 20-60 mg panobinostat. Dose-limiting toxicities included thrombocytopenia, febrile neutropenia, and fatigue at 60 mg, defining a panobinostat MTD at 50 mg. Four responses were seen in 37 assessable patients, all after progression on prior topoisomerase II inhibitors. For those with sarcoma, 12 of 20 derived clinical benefit (1 partial response and 11 stable disease, median overall survival 8.3 months), including 8 of 14 previously progressed on topoisomerase II therapy. Treatment benefits correlated with increased histone acetylation and decreased neutrophil count on day 5. Conclusions: Panobinostat and epirubicin treatment is well tolerated and may reverse anthracycline resistance. Changes in histone acetylation and associated decrease in neutrophil count correlated with clinical benefit and warrant investigation as predictive biomarkers.
- Histone deacetylase