Treatment options for older patients with advanced myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) or acute myeloid leukemia (AML) are limited and the prognosis remains poor, thereby warranting development of novel therapies. Aberrant epigenetic modifications, including altered DNA methylation, seem to contribute to the pathogenesis of these patients. In fact, hypomethylating agents (HMA) like azacitidine have been successfully used in clinical trials and achieved approval from health authorities. There is now growing evidence suggesting that the combination of drugs with different mechanisms of action might offer a potential benefit to these patients. This is especially done with the intention to synergize the positive effects of each drug on the defective hematopoiesis while sparing potential side effects and toxicities. Combination of HMA with histone deacetylase inhibitors, although mechanistically very tempting, have not yielded convincing improvement of the results in the majority of trials compared to single agent HMA treatment. Currently, combination therapies of azacitidine with lenalidomide appear to be promising thus making them an appealing option for treatment in these patients.Leukemia advance online publication, 28 May 2013; doi:10.1038/leu.2013.140.