Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Medical Sciences

Major Professor

Eduardo M. Sotomayor

Co-Major Professor

Javier Pinilla-Ibarz


HDAC, HDAC11, Histone Deacetylases, Melanoma, T-cell


Cancer represents the second leading cause of death in the United States. For many malignancies, currently available treatment options offer little long-lasting survival benefits to patients. However, recent studies have shown immunotherapeutic approaches to be an attractive strategy to cancer treatment. While many current immunotherapeutic strategies convey durable responses, such responses are only seen in a minority of patients. An increased understanding of the mechanisms governing tumor immunogenicity and the biology of immune responses is crucial to improving upon the efficacy of current and future cancer immunotherapies. Histone deacetylases (HDACs), enzymes classically associated with regulation of gene expression, have been therapeutic targets in various cancers for several years due to their involvement in cell growth. However, it has become increasingly clear that HDACs are intimately involved in regulating both the immunogenicity of tumor cells and immune response of leukocytes and lymphocytes. In order to expand upon this growing knowledge, the therapeutic efficacy of the pan-HDAC inhibitor LBH589 in the treatment of melanoma was studied. The results presented here demonstrate that LBH589 is a potent inhibitor of growth in a wide variety of melanomas through induction of cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. Additionally, LBH589 increases the immune visibility of melanoma cells by increasing expression of several immune associated cell surface markers (e.g. MHC I, MHC II, CD80, CD86) in addition to upregulating expression of melanoma differentiation antigens. Furthermore, LBH589 treatment of immune cells results in an enhanced pro-inflammatory phenotype of both APCs and T-cells. These combined effects result in better activation of T-cells and ultimately prolonged survival in LBH589 treated, melanoma-baring mice. To further the understanding of the role of individual HDACs in the T-cell response, the biology of the newest HDAC, HDAC11, was further assessed. To this end, it is shown that HDAC11 is differentially expressed in T-cell populations, and expression is rapidly decreased following activation. Utilizing an HDAC11 knockout (HDAC11KO) mouse strain, it is found that both CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells lacking HDAC11 have an enhanced type 1 effector function characterized by increased proliferation and secretion of IL-2, TNF and IFN-γ. Additionally, HDAC11KO CD8+ T-cells have increased expression of both granzyme B and perforin. HDAC11KO T-cells also demonstrate enhanced resistance to inhibition by Tregs and anergy formation. As a possible mechanism for the observed phenotype, it is also demonstrated that HDAC11KO T-cells produce elevated levels of the transcription factors Eomes and T-bet, both at the basal state and post-activation. In vivo, T-cells lacking HDAC11 have a more potent and robust ability to cause GvHD and mediate an enhanced anti-tumor response. Collectively, these results demonstrate that targeting of HDACs is a viable approach to cancer immunotherapy, and that targeting of specific HDACs may be an attractive strategy for optimizing immunotherapy efficacy while minimizing side effects.