Inhibitors of poly[ADP-ribose] polymerase 1 (PARPis) show promise for treatment of cancers which lack capacity for homologous recombination repair (HRR). However, new therapeutic strategies are required in order to overcome innate and acquired resistance to these drugs and thus expand the array of cancers that could benefit from them. We show that human cancer cell lines which respond poorly to ABT-888 (a PARPi), become sensitive to it when co-treated with vorinostat (a histone deacetylase inhibitor (HDACi)). Vorinostat also sensitized PARPis insensitive cancer cell lines to 6-thioguanine (6-TG)-a drug that targets PARPis sensitive cells. The sensitizing effect of vorinostat was associated with increased phosphorylation of eukaryotic initiation factor (eIF) 2α which in and of itself increases the sensitivity of cancer cells to ABT-888. Importantly, these drug combinations did not affect survival of normal fibroblasts and breast cells, and significantly increased the inhibition of xenograft tumor growth relative to each drug alone, without affecting the mice weight or their liver and kidney function. Our results show that combination of vorinostat and ABT-888 could potentially prove useful for treatment of cancer with innate resistance to PARPis due to active HRR machinery, while the combination of vorinostat and 6-TG could potentially overcome innate or acquired resistance to PARPis due to secondary or reversal BRCA mutations, to decreased PARP-1 level or to increased expression of multiple drug resistant proteins. Importantly, drugs which increase phosphorylation of eIF2α may mimic the sensitizing effect of vorinostat on cellular response to PARPis or to 6-TG, without activating all of its downstream effectors.
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© 2016 Yalon et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.