Despite the anticancer activity of pan-histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors, their clinical use has been limited due to toxicity. However, the development of more specific inhibitors that selectively inhibit individual HDACs is emerging as a novel and well-tolerated alternative. Here, we present the results of the first clinical trial evaluating the activity of ricolinostat (the leading HDAC6 inhibitor) in breast cancer (BC) patients. We have developed a computational network-based algorithm to evaluate the activity of the HDAC6 protein, based on the enrichment of its transcriptional targets in differentially expressed genes (HDAC6 score). Through preclinical in vitro and in vivo studies, we confirmed that the HDAC6 score can stratify the sensitivity of BC cells to ricolinostat treatment and may thus have value as a predictive biomarker. Moreover, analysis of ~3,000 primary human breast cancers showed that ~30% of them present high HDAC6 scores. Based on these results, we designed a phase Ib clinical trial to evaluate the activity of ricolinostat plus nab-paclitaxel in metastatic BC patients. Study results showed that the two agents can be safely combined, that clinical activity is identified specifically in patients with HR+/HER2- disease, and that the HDAC6 score was predictive of response. Expansion of our analysis to other tumor types identified multiple cohorts enriched in high HDAC6 score samples. These results suggest that the HDAC6 score may provide an effective, CLIA certified predictive biomarker of ricolinostat sensitivity in multiple human cancers.

Citation Format: Qingfei Pan, Tizita Zeleke, Cody Chiuzan, Maika Onishi, Mariano Alvarez, Erin Honan, Min Yang, Pei Ling Chia, Partha Mukhopadhyay, Sean Kelly, Ruby Wu, Kathleen Fenn, Meghna Trivedi, Melissa Accordino, Katherine Crew, Dawn Hershman, Matthew Maurer, Simon Jones, Andrea Califano, Kevin Kalinsky, Jiyang Yu, Jose Silva. Network-based assessment of HDAC6 activity is highly predictive of pre-clinical and clinical responses to the HDAC6 inhibitor ricolinostat [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2021; 2021 Apr 10-15 and May 17-21. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2021;81(13_Suppl):Abstract nr 645.