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BACKGROUND: Epigenetic therapy has had a significant impact on the management of hematologic malignancies, but its role in the treatment of ovarian cancer remains to be defined. The authors previously demonstrated that treatment of ovarian and breast cancer cells with DNA methyltransferase and histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors can up-regulate the expression of imprinted tumor suppressors. In this study, demethylating agents and HDAC inhibitors were tested for their ability to induce re-expression of tumor suppressor genes, inhibiting growth of ovarian cancer cells in culture and in xenografts. METHODS: Ovarian cancer cells (Hey and SKOv3) were treated with demethylating agents (5-aza-20-deoxycytidine [DAC] or 5-azacitidine [AZA]) or with HDAC inhibitors (suberoylanilide hydroxamicacid [SAHA] or trichostatin A [TSA]) to determine their impact on cellular proliferation, cell cycle regulation, apoptosis, autophagy, and re-expression of 2 growth inhibitory imprinted tumor suppressor genes: guanosine triphosphate-binding Di-RAS-like 3 (ARHI) and paternally expressed 3 (PEG3). The in vivo activities of DAC and SAHA were assessed in a Hey xenograft model. RESULTS: The combination of DAC and SAHA produced synergistic inhibition of Hey and SKOv3 cell growth by apoptosis and cell cycle arrest. DAC induced autophagy in Hey cells that was enhanced by SAHA. Treatment with both agents induced re-expression of ARHI and PEG3 in cultured cells and in xenografts, correlating with growth inhibition. Knockdown of ARHI decreased DAC-induced autophagy. DAC and SAHA inhibited the growth of Hey xenografts and induced autophagy in vivo. CONCLUSIONS: A combination of DAC and SAHA inhibited ovarian cancer growth while inducing apoptosis, G2/M arrest, autophagy, and re-expression of imprinted tumor suppressor genes.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





4424 - 4438


Animals, Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic, Apoptosis, Autophagy, Azacitidine, Cell Division, Cell Line, Tumor, Cell Proliferation, Drug Synergism, Drug Therapy, Combination, Epigenomics, Female, G2 Phase, Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic, Genes, Tumor Suppressor, Genomic Imprinting, Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors, Humans, Hydroxamic Acids, Mice, Mice, Inbred BALB C, Mice, Nude, Ovarian Neoplasms, Transplantation, Heterologous