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Cutaneous squamous cell carcinomas are a common form of highly mutated keratinocyte skin cancers that are of particular concern in immunocompromised patients. Here we report on the efficacy of topically applied MS-275, a clinically used histone deacetylase inhibitor, for the treatment and management of this disease. At 2 mg/kg, MS-275 significantly decreased tumor burden in an SKH-1 hairless mouse model of UVB radiation-induced skin carcinogenesis. MS-275 was cell permeable as a topical formulation and induced histone acetylation changes in mouse tumor tissue. MS-275 was also effective at inhibiting the proliferation of patient derived cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma lines and was particularly potent toward cells isolated from a regional metastasis on an immunocompromised individual. Our findings support the use of alternative routes of administration for histone deacetylase inhibitors in the treatment of high-risk squamous cell carcinoma which may ultimately lead to more precise delivery and reduced systemic toxicity.