Targeted inhibition of histone deacetylase leads to suppression of Ewing sarcoma tumor growth through an unappreciated EWS-FLI1/HDAC3/HSP90 signaling axis.

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DOI: 10.1007/s00109-019-01782-0; PMCID: PMC6584050


Ewing sarcoma (ES) are aggressive pediatric bone and soft tissue tumors driven by EWS-ETS fusion oncogenes, most commonly EWS-FLI1. Treatment of ES patients consists of up to 9 months of alternating courses of 2 chemotherapeutic regimens. Furthermore, EWS-ETS-targeted therapies have yet to demonstrate clinical benefit, thereby emphasizing a clinical responsibility to search for new therapeutic approaches. Our previous in silico drug screening identified entinostat as a drug hit that was predicted to reverse the ES disease signatures and EWS-FLI1-mediated gene signatures. Here, we establish preclinical proof of principle by investigating the in vitro and in vivo efficacy of entinostat in preclinical ES models, as well as characterizing the mechanisms of action and in vivo pharmacokinetics of entinostat. ES cells are preferentially sensitive to entinostat in an EWS-FLI1 or EWS-ERG-dependent manner. Entinostat induces apoptosis of ES cells through G0/G1 cell cycle arrest, intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) elevation, DNA damage, homologous recombination (HR) repair impairment, and caspase activation. Mechanistically, we demonstrate for the first time that HDAC3 is a transcriptional target of EWS-FLI1 and that entinostat inhibits growth of ES cells through suppressing a previously unexplored EWS-FLI1/HDAC3/HSP90 signaling axis. Importantly, entinostat significantly reduces tumor burden by 97.4% (89.5 vs. 3397.3 mm3 of vehicle, p < 0.001) and prolongs the median survival of mice (15.5 vs. 8.5 days of vehicle, p < 0.001), in two independent ES xenograft mouse models, respectively. Overall, our studies demonstrate promising activity of entinostat against ES, and support the clinical development of the entinostat-based therapies for children and young adults with metastatic/relapsed ES. KEY MESSAGES: • Entinostat potently inhibits ES both in vitro and in vivo. • EWS-FLI1 and EWS-ERG confer sensitivity to entinostat treatment. • Entinostat suppresses the EWS-FLI1/HDAC3/HSP90 signaling. • HDAC3 is a transcriptional target of EWS-FLI1. • HDAC3 is essential for ES cell viability and genomic stability maintenance.

Journal Title

J Mol Med (Berl)





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MeSH Keywords

Animals; Apoptosis; Benzamides; Cell Cycle Checkpoints; Cell Line, Tumor; Cell Proliferation; Cell Survival; Embryonic Stem Cells; Female; Genomic Instability; HSP90 Heat-Shock Proteins; Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors; Histone Deacetylases; Humans; Mice; Mice, Nude; Models, Biological; Oncogene Proteins, Fusion; Promoter Regions, Genetic; Proto-Oncogene Protein c-fli-1; Pyridines; RNA-Binding Protein EWS; Reactive Oxygen Species; Sarcoma, Ewing; Signal Transduction; Transcription, Genetic; Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


EWS-FLI1; Entinostat; Ewing sarcoma; HDAC3; Histone deacetylase inhibitor

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