November 27, 2015
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Mechanism Of Action

Vorinostat inhibits the enzymatic activity of histone deacetylases HDAC1, HDAC2 and HDAC3 (Class I) and HDAC6 (Class II) at nanomolar concentrations (IC50 < 86 nM). These enzymes catalyze the removal of acetyl groups from the lysine residues of proteins, including histones and transcription factors. In some cancer cells, there is an overexpression of HDACs, or an aberrant recruitment of HDACs to oncogenic transcription factors causing hypoacetylation of core nucleosomal histones. Hypoacetylation of histones is associated with a condensed chromatin structure and repression of gene transcription. Inhibition of HDAC activity allows for the accumulation of acetyl groups on the histone lysine residues resulting in an open chromatin structure and transcriptional activation. In vitro, vorinostat causes the accumulation of acetylated histones and induces cell cycle arrest and/or apoptosis of some transformed cells. The mechanism of the antineoplastic effect of vorinostat has not been fully characterized.


Cardiac Electrophysiology

A randomized, partially-blind, placebo-controlled, 2-period crossover study was performed to assess the effects of a single 800-mg dose of vorinostat on the QTc interval in 24 patients with advanced cancer. This study was conducted to assess the impact of vorinostat on ventricular repolarization. The upper bound of the 90% confidence interval of the placebo-adjusted mean QTc interval change-from-baseline was less than 10 msec at every time point through 24 hours. Based on these study results, administration of a single supratherapeutic 800-mg dose of vorinostat does not appear to prolong the QTc interval in patients with advanced cancer; however the study did not include a positive control to demonstrate assay sensitivity. In the fasted state, oral administration of a single 800-mg dose of vorinostat resulted in a mean AUC and Cmax and median Tmax of 8.6±5.7 μM•hr and 1.7±0.67 μM and 2.1 (0.5-6) hours, respectively.

In clinical studies in patients with CTCL, three of 86 CTCL patients exposed to 400 mg once daily had Grade 1 ( > 450-470 msec) or 2 ( > 470-500 msec or increase of > 60 msec above baseline) clinical adverse reactions of QTc prolongation. In a retrospective analysis of three Phase 1 and two Phase 2 studies, 116 patients had a baseline and at least one follow-up ECG. Four patients had Grade 2 ( > 470-500 msec or increase of > 60 msec above baseline) and 1 patient had Grade 3 ( > 500 msec) QTc prolongation. In 49 non-CTCL patients from 3 clinical trials who had complete evaluation of QT interval, 2 had QTc measurements of > 500 msec and 1 had a QTc prolongation of > 60 msec.



The pharmacokinetics of vorinostat were evaluated in 23 patients with relapsed or refractory advanced cancer. After oral administration of a single 400-mg dose of vorinostat with a high-fat meal, the mean ± standard deviation area under the curve (AUC) and peak serum concentration (Cmax) and the median (range) time to maximum concentration (Tmax) were 5.5±1.8 μM•hr, 1.2±0.62 μM and 4 (2-10) hours, respectively.

In the fasted state, oral administration of a single 400-mg dose of vorinostat resulted in a mean AUC and Cmax and median Tmax of 4.2±1.9 μM•hr and 1.2±0.35 μM and 1.5 (0.5-10) hours, respectively. Therefore, oral administration of vorinostat with a high-fat meal resulted in an increase (33%) in the extent of absorption and a modest decrease in the rate of absorption (Tmax delayed 2.5 hours) compared to the fasted state. However, these small effects are not expected to be clinically meaningful. In clinical trials of patients with CTCL, vorinostat was taken with food.

At steady state in the fed-state, oral administration of multiple 400-mg doses of vorinostat resulted in a mean AUC and Cmax and a median Tmax of 6.0±2.0 μM•hr, 1.2±0.53 μM and 4 (0.5-14) hours, respectively.


Vorinostat is approximately 71% bound to human plasma proteins over the range of concentrations of 0.5 to 50 μg/mL.


The major pathways of vorinostat metabolism involve glucuronidation and hydrolysis followed by β-oxidation. Human serum levels of two metabolites, O-glucuronide of vorinostat and 4-anilino-4-oxobutanoic acid were measured. Both metabolites are pharmacologically inactive. Compared to vorinostat, the mean steady state serum exposures in humans of the O-glucuronide of vorinostat and 4-anilino-4-oxobutanoic acid were 4-fold and 13-fold higher, respectively.

In vitro studies using human liver microsomes indicate negligible biotransformation by cytochromes P450 (CYP).


Vorinostat is eliminated predominantly through metabolism with less than 1% of the dose recovered as unchanged drug in urine, indicating that renal excretion does not play a role in the elimination of vorinostat. The mean urinary recovery of two pharmacologically inactive metabolites at steady state was 16±5.8% of vorinostat dose as the O-glucuronide of vorinostat, and 36±8.6% of vorinostat dose as 4-anilino-4-oxobutanoic acid. Total urinary recovery of vorinostat and these two metabolites averaged 52±13.3% of vorinostat dose. The mean terminal half-life (t½) was ~2.0 hours for both vorinostat and the O-glucuronide metabolite, while that of the 4-anilino-4-oxobutanoic acid metabolite was 11 hours.

Specific Populations

Gender, Race & Age

Based upon an exploratory analysis of limited data, gender, race and age do not appear to have meaningful effects on the pharmacokinetics of vorinostat.


Vorinostat was not evaluated in patients < 18 years of age.

Hepatic Impairment

The single dose pharmacokinetics of a 400 mg ZOLINZA dose was evaluated in patients with non-CTCL cancers with varying degrees of hepatic impairment. The mean AUC of vorinostat in patients with mild (bilirubin > 1 to 1.5 x ULN or AST > ULN but bilirubin ≤ ULN) and moderate (bilirubin 1.5 to ≤ 3 x ULN) hepatic impairment increased by 50% compared to the AUC of vorinostat in patients with normal hepatic function. The mean vorinostat AUC in patients with severe hepatic impairment (bilirubin > 3 x ULN) increased by 66% compared to the AUC of patients with normal hepatic function.

The safety of multiple daily doses of ZOLINZA was also evaluated in patients with non-CTCL cancers with varying degrees of hepatic impairment. The highest dose studied in mild, moderate and severe hepatic impairment was 400, 300 and 200 mg daily respectively. The incidence of Grade 3 or 4 adverse reactions was similar among the hepatic function groups. The most common Grade 3 or 4 adverse reaction was thrombocytopenia.

Reduce the dose in patients with mild to moderate hepatic impairment. There is not enough data in patients with severe hepatic impairment to recommend a dose modification. [See DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION and Use in Specific Populations]

Renal Insufficiency

Vorinostat was not evaluated in patients with renal impairment. However, renal excretion does not play a role in the elimination of vorinostat. [See Use In Specific Populations]

Pharmacokinetic Effects Of Vorinostat With Other Agents

Vorinostat is not an inhibitor of CYP drug metabolizing enzymes in human liver microsomes at steady state Cmax of the 400 mg dose (Cmax of 1.2 μM vs IC50 of > 75 μM). Gene expression studies in human hepatocytes detected some potential for suppression of CYP2C9 and CYP3A4 activities by vorinostat at concentrations higher ( ≥ 10 μM) than pharmacologically relevant. Thus, vorinostat is not expected to affect the pharmacokinetics of other agents. As vorinostat is not eliminated via the CYP pathways, it is anticipated that vorinostat will not be subject to drug-drug interactions when co-administered with drugs that are known CYP inhibitors or inducers. However, no formal clinical studies have been conducted to evaluate drug interactions with vorinostat.

In vitro studies indicate that vorinostat is not a substrate of human P-glycoprotein (P-gp). In addition, vorinostat has no inhibitory effect on human P-gp-mediated transport of vinblastine (a marker P-gp substrate) at concentrations of up to 100 μM. Thus, vorinostat is not likely to inhibit P-gp at the pharmacologically relevant serum concentration of 2 μM (Cmax) in humans.

Clinical Studies

Cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma

In two open-label clinical studies, patients with refractory CTCL have been evaluated to determine their response rate to oral ZOLINZA. One study was a single-arm clinical study and the other assessed several dosing regimens. In both studies, patients were treated until disease progression or intolerable toxicity.

Study 1

In an open-label, single-arm, multicenter non-randomized study, 74 patients with advanced CTCL were treated with ZOLINZA at a dose of 400 mg once daily. The primary endpoint was response rate to oral ZOLINZA in the treatment of skin disease in patients with advanced CTCL (Stage IIB and higher) who had progressive, persistent, or recurrent disease on or following two systemic therapies. Enrolled patients should have received, been intolerant to or not a candidate for bexarotene. Extent of skin disease was quantitatively assessed by investigators using a modified Severity Weighted Assessment Tool (SWAT).

The investigator measured the percentage total body surface area (%TBSA) involvement separately for patches, plaques, and tumors within 12 body regions using the patient's palm as a “ruler”. The total %TBSA for each lesion type was multiplied by a severity weighting factor (1=patch, 2=plaque and 4=tumor) and summed to derive the SWAT score. Efficacy was measured as either a Complete Clinical Response (CCR) defined as no evidence of disease, or Partial Response (PR) defined as a ≥ 50% decrease in SWAT skin assessment score compared to baseline. Both CCR and PR had to be maintained for at least 4 weeks.

Secondary efficacy endpoints included response duration, time to progression, and time to objective response.

The population had been exposed to a median of three prior therapies (range 1 to 12).

Table 2 summarizes the demographic and disease characteristics of the Study 1 population.

Table 2: Baseline Patient Characteristics (All Patients As Treated)

Characteristics Vorinostat
Age (year)
Mean (SD) 61.2 (11.3)
Median (Range) 60.0 (39.0, 83.0)
Gender, n (%)
Male 38 (51.4%)
Female 36 (48.6%)
CTCL stage, n (%)
IB 11 (14.9%)
IIA 2 (2.7%)
IIB 19 (25.7%)
III 22 (29.7%)
IVA 16 (21.6%)
IVB 4 (5.4%)
Racial Origin, n (%)
Asian 1 (1.4%)
Black 11 (14.9%)
Other 1 (1.4%)
White 61 (82.4%)
Time from Initial CTCL Diagnosis (year)
Median (Range) 2.6 (0.0, 27.3)
Clinical Characteristics
Number of prior systemic treatments, median (range) 3.0 (1.0, 12.0)

The overall objective response rate was 29.7% (22/74, 95% CI [19.7 to 41.5%]) in all patients treated with ZOLINZA. In patients with Stage IIB and higher CTCL, the overall objective response rate was 29.5% (18/61). One patient with Stage IIB CTCL achieved a CCR. Median times to response were 55 and 56 days (range 28 to 171 days), respectively in the overall population and in patients with Stage IIB and higher CTCL. However, in rare cases it took up to 6 months for patients to achieve an objective response to ZOLINZA.

The median response duration was not reached since the majority of responses continued at the time of analysis, but was estimated to exceed 6 months for both the overall population and in patients with Stage IIB and higher CTCL. When end of response was defined as a 50% increase in SWAT score from the nadir, the estimated median response duration was 168 days and the median time to tumor progression was 202 days.

Using a 25% increase in SWAT score from the nadir as criterion for tumor progression, the estimated median time-to-progression was 148 days for the overall population and 169 days in the 61 patients with Stage IIB and higher CTCL.

Response to any previous systemic therapy does not appear to be predictive of response to ZOLINZA.

Study 2

In an open-label, non-randomized study, ZOLINZA was evaluated to determine the response rate for patients with CTCL who were refractory or intolerant to at least one treatment. In this study, 33 patients were assigned to one of 3 cohorts: Cohort 1, 400 mg once daily; Cohort 2, 300 mg twice daily 3 days/week; or Cohort 3, 300 mg twice daily for 14 days followed by a 7-day rest (induction). In Cohort 3, if at least a partial response was not observed then patients were dosed with a maintenance regimen of 200 mg twice daily. The primary efficacy endpoint, objective response, was measured by the 7-point Physician's Global Assessment (PGA) scale. The investigator assessed improvement or worsening in overall disease compared to baseline based on overall clinical impression. Index and non-index cutaneous lesions as well as cutaneous tumors, lymph nodes and all other disease manifestations were also assessed and included in the overall clinical impression. CCR required 100% clearing of all findings, and PR required at least 50% improvement in disease findings.

The median age was 67.0 years (range 26.0 to 82.0). Fifty-five percent of patients were male, and 45% of patients were female. Fifteen percent of patients had Stage IA, IB, or IIA CTCL and 85% of patients had Stage IIB, III, IVA, or IVB CTCL. The median number of prior systemic therapies was 4 (range 0.0 to 11.0).

In all patients treated, the objective response was 24.2% (8/33) in the overall population, 25% (7/28) in patients with Stage IIB or higher disease and 36.4% (4/11) in patients with Sezary syndrome. The overall response rates were 30.8%, 9.1% and 33.3% in Cohort 1, Cohort 2 and Cohort 3, respectively. The 300 mg twice daily regimen had higher toxicity with no additional clinical benefit over the 400 mg once daily regimen. No CCR was observed.

Among the 8 patients who responded to study treatment, the median time to response was 83.5 days (range 25 to 153 days). The median response duration was 106 days (range 66 to 136 days). Median time to progression was 211.5 days (range 94 to 255 days).


1. OSHA Hazardous Drugs. OSHA. []

Last reviewed on RxList: 10/15/2015
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

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