Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Cancer Biology

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Dina Lev

Committee Member

David McConkey

Committee Member

Juan Fueyo-Margareto

Committee Member

Alexander Lazar

Committee Member

Raphael Pollock


Targeting Histone deacetylases (HDAC) for the treatment of genetically complex soft tissue sarcoma

Histone deactylase inhibitors (HDACi) are a new class of anticancer therapeutics; however, little is known about HDACi or the individual contribution of HDAC isoform activity in soft tissue sarcoma (STS). We investigated the potential efficacy of HDACi as monotherapy and in combination with chemotherapy in a panel of genetically complex STS. We found that HDACi combined with chemotherapy significantly induced anti-STS effects in vitro and in vivo. We then focused our study of HDACi in malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST), a subtype of highly aggressive, therapeutically resistant, and commonly fatal malignancies that occur in patients with neurofibromatosis type-1 (NF1) or sporadically. The therapeutic efficacy of HDACi was investigated in a panel of NF1-associated and sporadic MPNST cell lines. Our results demonstrate the NF1-assocaited cohort to be highly sensitive to HDACi while sporadic cell lines exhibited resistance. HDACi-induced productive autophagy was found to be a mode of resistance and inhibiting HDACi-induced autophagy significantly induced pro-apoptotic effects of HDACi in vitro and in vivo. HDACs are not a single enzyme consisting of 11 currently known isoforms. HDACis used in these studies inhibit a variety of these isoforms, namely class I HDACs which include HDAC1, 2, 3, and 8. Recently, HDAC8-specific inhibitors (HDAC8i) have been created and tested in various cancer cell lines. Lastly, the potential therapeutic efficacy of HDAC8i was investigated in human (NF1-associated and sporadic) and NF1-associated murine-derived MPNST. HDAC8i abrogated cell growth in human and murine-derived MPNST cells. Similar to the pattern noticed with pan-HDACis NF1-associated cells, especially murine-derived, were more sensitive to HDAC8i compared to human sporadic MPNST cell lines. S-phase arrest was observed in human and murine MPNST cells, independent of p53 mutational and NF1 status. HDAC8i induced apoptosis is all cell lines tested, with a more pronounced effects in human and murine-derived NF1-associated cells. Most importantly, HDAC8i abrogated murine-derived MPNST xenograft growth in vivo. Taken together, these findings support the evaluation of pan-HDACi and isoform-specific inhibitors as a novel therapy to treat MPNST, including in combination with autophagy blocking combination regimens in particular for patients with sporadic MPNST.


HDAC, HDAC inhibition, MPNST, soft tissue sarcoma, HDAC8, autophagy



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