Tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) is currently being investigated as a therapeutic agent for a variety of malignancies, as it triggers apoptosis specifically in transformed cells. However, TRAIL use as a stand alone therapeutic is hampered by the fact that many primary tumor cells are resistant to TRAIL-mediated apoptosis. Here, we investigated the extent to which pretreatment of TRAIL-resistant primary B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) cells with histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACis) could render them susceptible to killing by TRAIL. We found that HDAC inhibition in B-CLL cells led to increased TRAIL receptor expression, increased caspase activation, decreased expression of antiapoptotic regulators such as Bcl-2, and ultimately, enhanced TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Importantly, untransformed peripheral blood mononuclear cells remained largely resistant to TRAIL, even in the presence of HDACis. These results suggest that combination therapies using HDAC inhibition and TRAIL could prove beneficial for the treatment of B-CLL.
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