Introduction: The tumor microenvironment is mainly flooded with immunosuppressive cells and inhibitory cytokines, resulting in the inability of effective immune cells to infiltrate and recognize tumors and even the loss of anti-cancer ability. Objectives: We propose a novel HDAC6/HSP90 dual inhibitory strategy as well as a chemoimmunotherapeutic agent that does not only kill tumor cells but also destroys the tumor microenvironment and enhances anti-cancer immunity. Methods: A hybrid scaffold construction approach was leveraged to furnish a series of rationally designed resorcinol-based hydroxamates as dual selective HDAC6/HSP90 inhibitors. The drug design campaign commenced with a fragment recruitment process to pinpoint validated structural units to inhibit HDAC6 and HSP90, followed by their installation in flexible HDAC inhibitory templates via an efficient and facile multistep synthetic route. Subsequent evaluations identified a strikingly potent selective HDAC6/HSP90 dual inhibitor (compound 17) via molecular and biological analysis in vitro and in vivo. Results: Compound 17 exhibited not only direct cytotoxicity to cancer cells but also downregulated immune checkpoints (PD-L1 and IDO) expression in tumors via the inhibition of STAT1 pathway and degradation of oncogene proteins (Src, AKT, Rb, and FAK), leading to in vivo tumor growth inhibition. These multiple effects enabled the effector T cells to largely infiltrate into the tumor region and release granzyme B to kill cancer cells. In addition, compound 17 also decreased TGF-β secretion from normal cells, resulting in the systemic reduction of immunosuppressive regulatory T cells. Delightfully, a cocktail treatment of compound 17 and anti-PD-1 antibodies demonstrated synergistic efficacy to eliminate solid tumors with 83.9% of tumor growth inhibition. Conclusion: In summary, the impressive activity profile of compound 17, as an effective anticancer agent and a potential immunosensitizer, forecasts the application of HDAC6/HSP90 dual inhibitory strategy to overcome the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment.
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