PURPOSE To document the toxicity and activity of the histone deacetylase inhibitor suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA) in patients with pretreated hematologic malignancies. PATIENTS AND METHODS Two formulations of SAHA (intravenous [IV] and oral) have been assessed in two consecutive phase I trials. In both trials, dose escalation was performed in parallel and independently in patients with solid tumors and hematologic malignancies. Eligible patients were required to have adequate hepatic and renal function, an absolute neutrophil count > or = 500/microL and a platelet count more than 25,000/mL. All patients provided informed consent for study inclusion. RESULTS A total of 39 patients with hematologic malignancy were enrolled (14 on IV SAHA and 25 on oral SAHA), of whom 35 were treated. The spectrum of diseases included patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (n = 12), Hodgkin's disease (HD; n = 12), multiple myeloma (n = 2), T-cell lymphoma (n = 3), mantle cell lymphoma (n = 2), small lymphocytic lymphoma (n = 2), and myeloid leukemia (n = 2). Major adverse events with the oral formulation included fatigue, diarrhea, anorexia, and dehydration, whereas myelosuppression and thrombocytopenia were more prominent with the IV formulation. Typically, the hematologic toxicities resolved shortly after SAHA was stopped. There was no neutropenic fever or neutropenic sepsis. Reduction in measurable tumor was observed in five patients. One patient with transformed small lymphocytic lymphoma met criteria for complete response, whereas another met the criteria for partial response (PR). One patient with refractory HD had a PR, whereas three patients had stable disease for up to 9 months. CONCLUSION These results suggest that SAHA has activity in hematologic malignancies including HD and select subtypes of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.