Importance of the field: Reactive oxygen species (ROS) occur as natural by-products of oxygen metabolism and have important cellular functions. Normally, the cell is able to maintain an adequate balance between the formation and removal of ROS either via anti-oxidants or through the use specific enzymatic pathways. However, if this balance is disturbed, oxidative stress may occur in the cell, a situation linked to the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cancer.Areas covered in this review: HDACs are important regulators of many oxidative stress pathways including those involved with both sensing and coordinating the cellular response to oxidative stress. In particular aberrant regulation of these pathways by histone deacetylases may play critical roles in cancer progression.What the reader will gain: In this review we discuss the notion that targeting HDACs may be a useful therapeutic avenue in the treatment of oxidative stress in cancer, using chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), NSCLC and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) as examples to illustrate this possibility.Take home message: Epigenetic mechanisms may be an important new therapeutic avenue for targeting oxidative stress in cancer.

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