The inhibition of histone deacetylase (HDAC) can induce differentiation, growth arrest, and apoptosis in cancer cells. This phase II multicenter study was undertaken to estimate the efficacy of belinostat, a potent inhibitor of both class I and class II HDAC enzymes, for the treatment of myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). Adults with MDS and ≤2 prior therapies were treated with belinostat 1,000 mg/m(2) IV on days 1-5 of a 21-day cycle. The primary endpoint was a proportion of confirmed responses during the first 12 weeks of treatment. Responding patients could receive additional cycles until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity. Twenty-one patients were enrolled, and all were evaluable. Patients were a median 13.4 months from diagnosis, and 14 patients (67%) had less than 5% bone marrow blasts. Seventeen patients (81%) were transfusion dependent. Prior therapy included azacytidine (n = 7) and chemotherapy (n = 8). The patients were treated with a median of four cycles (range, 1-8) of belinostat. There was one confirmed response-hematologic improvement in neutrophils-for an overall response rate of 5% (95% CI, 0.2-23). Median overall survival was 17.9 months. Grades 3-4 toxicities considered at least to be possibly related to belinostat were: neutropenia (n = 10), thrombocytopenia (n = 9), anemia (n = 5), fatigue (n = 2), febrile neutropenia (n = 1), headache (n = 1), and QTc prolongation (n = 1). Because the study met the stopping rule in the first stage of enrollment, it was closed to further accrual.