A new enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2) inhibitor series comprising a substituted phenyl ring joined to a dimethylpyridone moiety via an amide linkage has been designed. A preferential amide torsion that improved the binding properties of the compounds was identified for this series via computational analysis. Cyclization of the amide linker resulted in a six-membered lactam analogue, compound 18. This transformation significantly improved the ligand efficiency/potency of the cyclized compound relative to its acyclic analogue. Additional optimization of the lactam-containing EZH2 inhibitors focused on lipophilic efficiency (LipE) improvement, which provided compound 31. Compound 31 displayed improved LipE and on-target potency in both biochemical and cellular readouts relative to compound 18. Inhibitor 31 also displayed robust in vivo antitumor growth activity and dose-dependent de-repression of EZH2 target genes.