Shibuya, et al. “SMAC Mimetics Synergistically Cooperate with HDAC Inhibitors Enhancing TNF-α Autocrine Signaling”; Cancers 2023

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The overexpression of inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP) proteins is strongly related to poor survival of women with ovarian cancer. Recurrent ovarian cancers resist apoptosis due to the dysregulation of IAP proteins. Mechanistically, Second Mitochondrial Activator of Caspases (SMAC) mimetics suppress the functions of IAP proteins to restore apoptotic pathways resulting in tumor death. We previously conducted a phase 2 clinical trial of the single-agent SMAC mimetic birinapant and observed minimal drug response in women with recurrent ovarian cancer despite demonstrating on-target activity. Accordingly, we performed a high-throughput screening matrix to identify synergistic drug combinations with birinapant. SMAC mimetics in combination with an HDAC inhibitor showed remarkable synergy and was, therefore, selected for further evaluation. We show here that this synergy observed both in vitro and in vivo results from multiple convergent pathways to include increased caspase activation, HDAC inhibitor-mediated TNF-α upregulation, and alternative NF-kB signaling. These findings provide a rationale for the integration of SMAC mimetics and HDAC inhibitors in clinical trials for recurrent ovarian cancer where treatment options are still limited.