Background: Bromodomain and extra-terminal inhibitors (BETi) have shown efficacy for the treatment of aggressive triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). However, BETi are plagued by a narrow therapeutic window as manifested by severe toxicities at effective doses. Therefore, it is a limitation to their clinical implementation in patient care. Methods: The impact of vitamin C on the efficacy of small compounds including BETi was assessed by high-throughput screening. Co-treatment of TNBC by BETi especially JQ1 and vitamin C was evaluated in vitro and in vivo. Findings: High-throughput screening revealed that vitamin C improves the efficacy of a number of structurally-unrelated BETi including JQ1, I-BET762, I-BET151, and CPI-203 in treating TNBC cells. The synergy between BETi and vitamin C is due to suppressed histone acetylation (H3ac and H4ac), which is in turn caused by upregulated histone deacetylase 1 (HDAC1) expression upon vitamin C addition. Treatment with JQ1 at lower doses together with vitamin C induces apoptosis and inhibits the clonogenic ability of cultured TNBC cells. Oral vitamin C supplementation renders a sub-therapeutic dose of JQ1 able to inhibit human TNBC xenograft growth and metastasis in mice. Interpretation: Vitamin C expands the therapeutic window of BETi by sensitizing TNBC to BETi. Using vitamin C as a co-treatment, lower doses of BETi could be used to achieve an increased therapeutic index in patients, which will translate to a reduced side effect profile. Fund: University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Bankhead Coley Cancer Research program (7BC10), Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute, and NIH R21CA191668 (to GW) and 1R56AG061911 (to CW and CHV).
- BET inhibitor
- Combination therapy
- Histone acetylation
- Triple negative breast cancer
- Vitamin C
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)