Modulation of thymidilate synthase and p53 expression by HDAC inhibitor vorinostat resulted in synergistic antitumor effect in combination with 5FU or raltitrexed

Elena Di Gennaro, Francesca Bruzzese, Stefano Pepe, Alessandra Leone, Paolo Delrio, Pochi R. Subbarayan, Antonio Avallone, Alfredo Budillon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

56 Scopus citations


Despite the introduction of several novel anticancer agents almost 50% of colorectal cancer (CRC) patients die for cancer suggesting the necessity of new therapeutical approaches. In this study we demonstrated that the HDAC inhibitor vorinostat exerted potent antiproliferative effect in a panel of mut- and wt-p53 human CRC cell lines. Moreover, in combination with 5-fluorouracil modulated by folinic acid (5FU-FA) or with Raltitrexed (RTX), both commonly used in the treatment of this disease, it showed a clear schedule-dependent synergistic antiproliferative interaction as demonstrated by calculating combination indexes. Only simultaneous, or 24 h pretreatment with vorinostat followed by either agent, produced synergistic effect paralleled by evident cell cycle perturbations with major S-phase arrest. Moreover, we provided for the first time evidences that vorinostat can overcome resistance to both 5FU and RTX. Downmodulation of Thymidilate synthase (TS) protein induced by vorinostat within 24 h, represented a key factor in enhancing the effects of both drugs in sensitive as well as resistant tumor cells. Furthermore, p53, whose wildtype expression is critical for sensitivity to 5FU and RTX, was upregulated by vorinostat in wt- and downregulated in mut-p53 cells, suggesting an additional mechanism of the antiproliferative synergistic interactions observed. Overall these data add new insights in the mechanism of vorinostat antitumor effect and suggested that the association of vorinostat plus 5FU-FA and/or RTX should be clinically explored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)782-791
Number of pages10
JournalCancer Biology and Therapy
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2009



  • 5-fluorouracil
  • Colorectal cancer
  • HDAC inhibitor
  • p53
  • Raltitrexed
  • Thimidilate synthase
  • Vorinostat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology

Cite this