Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Mary Kay H. Pflum


HDAC proteins have emerged as interesting targets for anti-cancer drugs due to their involvement in cancers, as well as several other diseases. Several HDAC inhibitors have been approved by the FDA as anti-cancer drugs, including SAHA (suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid, Vorinostat). Unfortunately, SAHA inhibits most HDAC isoforms, which limit its use as a pharmacological tool and may lead to side effects in the clinic. In this work we were interested in developing isoform selective HDAC inhibitors, which may decrease or eliminate the side effects associated with non-selective inhibitors treatment. In addition, isoform selective HDAC inhibitors can be used as biological tools to help understand the HDAC-related cancer biology. Our strategy was based on synthesis and screening of several derivatives of the non-selective FDA approved drug SAHA substituted at different positions of the linker region. Several SAHA analogs modified at the C4 and C5 positions of the linker were synthesized. The new C4- and C5-modified SAHA libraries, along with the previously synthesized C2-modified SAHA analogs were screened in vitro and in cellulo for HDAC isoform selectivity. Interestingly, several analogs exhibited dual HDAC6/HDAC8 selectivity. Enantioselective syntheses of the pure enantiomers of some of the interesting analogs were performed and the enantiomers were screened in vitro. Among the most interesting analogs, (R)-C4-benzyl SAHA displayed 520- to 1300-fold selectivity for HDAC6 and HDAC8 over HDAC1, 2, and 3, with IC50 values of 48 and 27 nM with HDAC6 and 8, respectively. Docking studies were performed to provide structural rationale for the observed selectivity of the new analogs. In addition, rational design, synthesis, and screening of several other biaryl indolyl benzamide HDAC inhibitors is discussed, and some showed modest HDAC1 selectivity. The new biaryl indolyl benzamides can be useful to further develop HDAC1 selective inhibitors. The dual HDAC6/8 selective inhibitors can be used as lead compounds and as a chemical tool to study HDAC related cancer biology. The observed enhancement of selectivity upon modifying the linker region of the non-selective inhibitor SAHA shows that modifying current drugs, like SAHA, could lead to substantial improvement in its pharmacodynamic properties.