Histone deacetylation and DNA methylation have a central role in the control of gene expression, including transcriptional repression of tumour suppressor genes. Loss of DNA mismatch repair due to methylation of the hMLH1 gene promoter results in resistance to cisplatin in vitro and in vivo. The cisplatin-resistant cell line A2780/cp70 is 8-fold more resistant to cisplatin than the non-resistant cell line, and has the hMLH1 gene methylated. Treatment with an inhibitor of DNA methyltransferase, DAC (2-deoxy-5′-azacytidine), results in a partial reversal of DNA methylation, re-expression of MLH1 (mutL homologue 1) and sensitization to cisplatin both in vitro and in vivo. PXD101 is a novel hydroxamate type histone deacetylase inhibitor that shows antitumour activity in vivo and is currently in phase I clinical evaluation. Treatment of A2780/cp70 tumour-bearing mice with DAC followed by PXD101 results in a marked increase in the number of cells that re-express MLH1. Since the clinical use of DAC may be limited by toxicity and eventual re-methylation of genes, we suggest that the combination of DAC and PXD101 could have a role in increasing the efficacy of chemotherapy in patients with tumours that lack MLH1 expression due to hMLH1 gene promoter methylation.

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