Current Cancer Drugs May Be Effective Treating Enlarged Heart Muscles

Cancer drugs that inhibit class 1 histone deacetylases may reduce excess enlargement of heart muscle cells.

An association between the growth of cancer cells and heart cells revealed that current cancer drugs could potentially help individuals suffering from enlarged heart cells.

Class 1 histone deacetylases (HDACs) have been found to help aid the spread of cancer. Inhibiting them can also blunt excess enlargement of heart muscle cells, also known as cardiac hypertrophy, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.

A study published in Science Signaling suggests that cancer drugs used to inhibit HDACs could also be effective in treating an enlarged heart muscle.

“This work opens the possibility of repurposing a drug that has been in use in cancer treatment for over a decade to target hypertrophic heart disease, a form of heart disease for which we have no effective therapy,” said senior study author Joseph Hill, MD. “We hope eventually to test this idea in clinical trials. Doing so is the Holy Grail for a physician-scientist, to translate fundamental molecular discoveries made in preclinical studies to humans.”

Hill’s research has primarily focused on cardiac hypertrophy and the alterations in the processing of DNA in heart disease.

During the study, researchers found that when HDACs were suppressed, the activity of mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) was also suppressed. Mice were genetically engineered to shut off HDAC activity, resulting in the reduction of mTOR activity and slowing the enlargement of cardiac muscle cells.

“HDAC inhibitors are approved to treat various cancers, and our results suggest how these drugs might work when repurposed to prevent heart failure,” said lead author Cyndi Morales.

The study data helped strengthen the growing understanding of the similarities between heart disease and cancer.

“In some cells, disruption of a molecular pathway can lead to cancer, whereas perturbations of that same pathway in heart cells can lead to heart failure,” Hill said. “Thus, there are interesting and sometimes surprising commonalities across the biologies of cancer and heart disease.”