Publications by authors named "Grazia Graziani"

104 Publications

VEGF-A/VEGFR-1 signalling and chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain: therapeutic potential of a novel anti-VEGFR-1 monoclonal antibody.

J Exp Clin Cancer Res 2021 Oct 14;40(1):320. Epub 2021 Oct 14.

Department of Neuroscience, Psychology, Drug Research and Child Health - NEUROFARBA - Pharmacology and Toxicology Section, University of Florence, Viale G. Pieraccini 6, 50139, Florence, Italy.

Background: Neuropathic pain is a clinically relevant adverse effect of several anticancer drugs that markedly impairs patients' quality of life and frequently leads to dose reduction or therapy discontinuation. The poor knowledge about the mechanisms involved in neuropathy development and pain chronicization, and the lack of effective therapies, make treatment of chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain an unmet medical need. In this context, the vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A) has emerged as a candidate neuropathy hallmark and its decrease has been related to pain relief. In the present study, we have investigated the role of VEGF-A and its receptors, VEGFR-1 and VEGFR-2, in pain signalling and in chemotherapy-induced neuropathy establishment as well as the therapeutic potential of receptor blockade in the management of pain.

Methods: Behavioural and electrophysiological analyses were performed in an in vivo murine model, by using selective receptor agonists, blocking monoclonal antibodies or siRNA-mediated silencing of VEGF-A and VEGFRs. Expression of VEGF-A and VEGFR-1 in astrocytes and neurons was detected by immunofluorescence staining and confocal microscopy analysis.

Results: In mice, the intrathecal infusion of VEGF-A (VEGF isoforms) induced a dose-dependent noxious hypersensitivity and this effect was mediated by VEGFR-1. Consistently, electrophysiological studies indicated that VEGF-A strongly stimulated the spinal nociceptive neurons activity through VEGFR-1. In the dorsal horn of the spinal cord of animals affected by oxaliplatin-induced neuropathy, VEGF-A expression was increased in astrocytes while VEGFR-1 was mainly detected in neurons, suggesting a VEGF-A/VEGFR-1-mediated astrocyte-neuron cross-talk in neuropathic pain pathophysiology. Accordingly, the selective knockdown of astrocytic VEGF-A by intraspinal injection of shRNAmir blocked the development of oxaliplatin-induced neuropathic hyperalgesia and allodynia. Interestingly, both intrathecal and systemic administration of the novel anti-VEGFR-1 monoclonal antibody D16F7, endowed with anti-angiogenic and antitumor properties, reverted oxaliplatin-induced neuropathic pain. Besides, D16F7 effectively relieved hypersensitivity induced by other neurotoxic chemotherapeutic agents, such as paclitaxel and vincristine.

Conclusions: These data strongly support the role of the VEGF-A/VEGFR-1 system in mediating chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain at the central nervous system level. Thus, treatment with the anti-VEGFR-1 mAb D16F7, besides exerting antitumor activity, might result in the additional advantage of attenuating neuropathic pain when combined with neurotoxic anticancer agents.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13046-021-02127-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8515680PMC
October 2021

At the Cutting Edge against Cancer: A Perspective on Immunoproteasome and Immune Checkpoints Modulation as a Potential Therapeutic Intervention.

Cancers (Basel) 2021 Sep 28;13(19). Epub 2021 Sep 28.

Department of Clinical Sciences and Translational Medicine, University of Rome Tor Vergata, 00133 Rome, Italy.

Immunoproteasome is a noncanonical form of proteasome with enzymological properties optimized for the generation of antigenic peptides presented in complex with class I MHC molecules. This enzymatic property makes the modulation of its activity a promising area of research. Nevertheless, immunotherapy has emerged as a front-line treatment of advanced/metastatic tumors providing outstanding improvement of life expectancy, even though not all patients achieve a long-lasting clinical benefit. To enhance the efficacy of the currently available immunotherapies and enable the development of new strategies, a broader knowledge of the dynamics of antigen repertoire processing by cancer cells is needed. Therefore, a better understanding of the role of immunoproteasome in antigen processing and of the therapeutic implication of its modulation is mandatory. Studies on the potential crosstalk between proteasome modulators and immune checkpoint inhibitors could provide novel perspectives and an unexplored treatment option for a variety of cancers.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers13194852DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8507813PMC
September 2021

hTERT Transduction Extends the Lifespan of Primary Pediatric Low-Grade Glioma Cells While Preserving the Biological Response to NGF.

Pathol Oncol Res 2021 2;27:612375. Epub 2021 Apr 2.

UOC di Oncologia Pediatrica, "Fondazione Policlinico Universitario A. Gemelli", IRCCS, Rome, Italy.

The neurotrophin nerve growth factor (NGF) modulates the growth of human gliomas and is able to induce cell differentiation through the engagement of tropomyosin receptor kinase A (TrkA) receptor, although the role played in controlling glioma survival has proved controversial. Unfortunately, the slow growth rate of low-grade gliomas (LGG) has made it difficult to investigate NGF effects on these tumors in preclinical models. In fact, patient-derived low-grade human astrocytoma cells duplicate only a limited number of times in culture before undergoing senescence. Nevertheless, replicative senescence can be counteracted by overexpression of hTERT, the catalytic subunit of telomerase, which potentially increases the proliferative potential of human cells without inducing cancer-associated changes. We have extended, by hTERT transduction, the proliferative potential of a human LGG cell line derived from a pediatric pilocytic astrocytoma (PA) surgical sample. Remarkably, the hTERT-transduced LGG cells showed a behavior similar to that of the parental line in terms of biological responses to NGF treatment, including molecular events associated with induction of NGF-related differentiation. Therefore, transduction of LGG cells with hTERT can provide a valid approach to increase the life-span of patient-derived astrocytoma primary cultures, characterized by a finite proliferative potential.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/pore.2021.612375DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8262147PMC
April 2021

Saffron and Its Major Ingredients' Effect on Colon Cancer Cells with Mismatch Repair Deficiency and Microsatellite Instability.

Molecules 2021 Jun 24;26(13). Epub 2021 Jun 24.

Department of Pathology and Cancer Center, College of Medicine, Howard University College of Medicine, Washington, DC 20059, USA.

Background: Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the most common cancers worldwide. One of its subtypes is associated with defective mismatch repair (dMMR) genes. Saffron has many potentially protective roles against colon malignancy. However, these roles in the context of dMMR tumors have not been explored. In this study, we aimed to investigate the effects of saffron and its constituents in CRC cell lines with dMMR.

Methods: Saffron crude extracts and specific compounds (safranal and crocin) were used in the human colorectal cancer cell lines HCT116, HCT116+3 (inserted MLH1), HCT116+5 (inserted MSH3), and HCT116+3+5 (inserted MLH1 and MSH3). CDC25b, p-H2AX, TPDP1, and GAPDH were analyzed by Western blot. Proliferation and cytotoxicity were analyzed by MTT. The scratch wound assay was also performed.

Results: Saffron crude extracts restricted (up to 70%) the proliferation in colon cells with deficient MMR (HCT116) compared to proficient MMR. The wound healing assay indicates that deficient MMR cells are doing better (up to 90%) than proficient MMR cells when treated with saffron. CDC25b and TDP1 downregulated (up to 20-fold) in proficient MMR cells compared to deficient MMR cells, while p.H2AX was significantly upregulated in both cell types, particularly at >10 mg/mL saffron in a concentration-dependent manner. The reduction in cellular proliferation was accompanied with upregulation of caspase 3 and 7. The major active saffron compounds, safranal and crocin reproduced most of the saffron crude extracts' effects.

Conclusions: Saffron's anti-proliferative effect is significant in cells with deficient MMR. This novel effect may have therapeutic implications and benefits for MSI CRC patients who are generally not recommended for the 5-fluorouracil-based treatment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/molecules26133855DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8270282PMC
June 2021

Poly(ADP-Ribose) Polymerase Inhibitors for Arsenic Trioxide-Resistant Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia: Synergistic In Vitro Antitumor Effects with Hypomethylating Agents or High-Dose Vitamin C.

J Pharmacol Exp Ther 2021 Jun 5;377(3):385-397. Epub 2021 Apr 5.

Pharmacology Section, Department of Systems Medicine, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy (M.G., A.D.G., S.P.P., T.K., G.G., I.F.); Department of Physiology and Pharmacology "V. Erspamer," Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy (M.G.); Department of Biomedicine and Prevention, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy (T.O., M.D., M.T.V.); Unit of Neuro-Oncohematology, Santa Lucia Foundation-IRCCS, Rome, Italy (T.O., M.T.V.); and IRCCS San Raffaele Pisana, Department of Human Sciences and Promotion of the Quality of Life, San Raffaele Roma Open University, Rome, Italy (F.C.)

Arsenic trioxide (ATO) is an anticancer agent used for the treatment ofacute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). However, 5%-10% of patients fail to respond or experience disease relapse. Based on poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) 1 involvement in the processing of DNA demethylation, here we have tested the in vitro susceptibility of ATO-resistant clones (derived from the human APL cell line NB4) to PARP inhibitors (PARPi) in combination with hypomethylating agents (azacitidine and decitabine) or high-dose vitamin C (ascorbate), which induces 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC)-mediated DNA demethylation. ATO-sensitive and -resistant APL cell clones were generated and initially analyzed for their susceptibility to five clinically used PARPi (olaparib, niraparib, rucaparib, veliparib, and talazoparib). The obtained PARPi IC values were far below (olaparib and niraparib), within the range (talazoparib), or above (rucaparib and veliparib) the reported in patients, likely as a result of differences in the mechanisms of their cytotoxic activity. ATO-resistant APL cells were also susceptible to clinically relevant concentrations of azacitidine and decitabine and to high-dose ascorbate. Interestingly, the combination of these agents with olaparib, niraparib, or talazoparib resulted in synergistic antitumor activity. In combination with ascorbate, PARPi increased the ascorbate-mediated induction of 5hmC, which likely resulted in stalled DNA repair and cytotoxicity. Talazoparib was the most effective PARPi in synergizing with ascorbate, in accordance with its marked ability to trap PARP1 at damaged DNA. These findings suggest that ATO and PARPi have nonoverlapping resistance mechanisms and support further investigation on PARPi combination with hypomethylating agents or high-dose ascorbate for relapsed/ATO-refractory APL, especially in frail patients. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: This study found that poly(ADP-ribose) inhibitors (PARPi) show activity as single agents against human acute promyelocytic leukemia cells resistant to arsenic trioxide at clinically relevant concentrations. Furthermore, PARPi enhance the in vitro efficacy of azacitidine, decitabine, and high-dose vitamin C, all agents that alter DNA methylation. In combination with vitamin C, PARPi increase the levels of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine, likely as a result of altered processing of the oxidized intermediates associated with DNA demethylation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1124/jpet.121.000537DOI Listing
June 2021

High-Dose Vitamin C: Preclinical Evidence for Tailoring Treatment in Cancer Patients.

Cancers (Basel) 2021 Mar 20;13(6). Epub 2021 Mar 20.

Department of Systems Medicine, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Via Montpellier 1, 00133 Rome, Italy.

High-dose vitamin C has been proposed as a potential therapeutic approach for patients with advanced tumors who failed previous treatment with chemotherapy. Due to vitamin C complex pharmacokinetics, only intravenous administration allows reaching sufficiently high plasma concentrations required for most of the antitumor effects observed in preclinical studies (>0.250 mM). Moreover, vitamin C entry into cells is tightly regulated by SVCT and GLUT transporters, and is cell type-dependent. Importantly, besides its well-recognized pro-oxidant effects, vitamin C modulates TET enzymes promoting DNA demethylation and acts as cofactor of HIF hydroxylases, whose activity is required for HIF-1α proteasomal degradation. Furthermore, at pharmacological concentrations lower than those required for its pro-oxidant activity (<1 mM), vitamin C in specific genetic contexts may alter the DNA damage response by increasing 5-hydroxymethylcytosine levels. These more recently described vitamin C mechanisms offer new treatment opportunities for tumors with specific molecular defects (e.g., HIF-1α over-expression or TET2, IDH1/2, and WT1 alterations). Moreover, vitamin C action at DNA levels may provide the rationale basis for combination therapies with PARP inhibitors and hypomethylating agents. This review outlines the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of vitamin C to be taken into account in designing clinical studies that evaluate its potential use as anticancer agent.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers13061428DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8003833PMC
March 2021

The Effects of Association of Topical Polydatin Improves the Preemptive Systemic Treatment on EGFR Inhibitors Cutaneous Adverse Reactions.

J Clin Med 2021 Jan 26;10(3). Epub 2021 Jan 26.

Dermatology Unit, Department of Systems Medicine, Tor Vergata University Hospital Foundation, 00133 Rome, Italy.

Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor inhibitors (EGFRi) are approved as therapeutic options in several solid tumors. Cutaneous papulopustular eruption is the most frequent cutaneous adverse-event (AE), usually treated with emollient or corticosteroids according to toxicity grade. Our study evaluated the efficacy and safety of a topical product containing polydatin, a glycosylated polyphenol, natural precursor of resveratrol showing anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative activities, for the prevention and treatment of skin papulopustular rash in EGFRi-treated patients. Forty oncologic patients treated with EGFRi were enrolled in two groups: group-A, 20 patients with papulopustular AE, and group-B, 20 patients without cutaneous manifestations. The study consisted of twice-daily application of polydatin cream 1.5% (group-A) and 0.8% (group-B) for 6 months. In group-A patients, we observed at week 4 a remarkable improvement of skin manifestation and quality of life evaluated with National-Cancer-Institute-Common-Terminology-Criteria for Adverse-Events (NCI-CTCAE), Dermatology-Life-Quality-Index (DLQI) score and Visual-Analogue-Scale (VAS) pruritus, with a statistical significance of < 0.05. None of the patients of group-B developed skin AEs to EGFRi. No cutaneous AEs related to the polydatin product were reported in both groups. Polydatin can be a good topical aid for the prevention and management of papulopustular rash in cancer patients receiving EGFRi, also capable of improving cancer patients' quality of life.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/jcm10030466DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7866016PMC
January 2021

Targeting Tumor-Associated Macrophages to Increase the Efficacy of Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors: A Glimpse into Novel Therapeutic Approaches for Metastatic Melanoma.

Cancers (Basel) 2020 Nov 17;12(11). Epub 2020 Nov 17.

Department of Systems Medicine, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Via Montpellier 1, 00133 Rome, Italy.

Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) represent a promising therapeutic intervention for a variety of advanced/metastatic solid tumors, including melanoma, but in a large number of cases, patients fail to establish a sustained anti-tumor immunity and to achieve a long-lasting clinical benefit. Cells of the tumor micro-environment such as tumor-associated M2 macrophages (M2-TAMs) have been reported to limit the efficacy of immunotherapy, promoting tumor immune evasion and progression. Thus, strategies targeting M2-TAMs have been suggested to synergize with immune checkpoint blockade. This review recapitulates the molecular mechanisms by which M2-TAMs promote cancer immune evasion, with focus on the potential cross-talk between pharmacological interventions targeting M2-TAMs and ICIs for melanoma treatment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers12113401DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7698460PMC
November 2020

PDIA3 Expression in Glioblastoma Modulates Macrophage/Microglia Pro-Tumor Activation.

Int J Mol Sci 2020 Nov 3;21(21). Epub 2020 Nov 3.

Dipartimento di Bioetica e Sicurezza, Sezione di Farmacologia-Catholic University Medical School, 00168 Rome, Italy.

The glioblastoma (GB) microenvironment includes cells of the innate immune system identified as glioma-associated microglia/macrophages (GAMs) that are still poorly characterized. A potential role on the mechanisms regulating GAM activity might be played by the endoplasmic reticulum protein ERp57/PDIA3 (protein disulfide-isomerase A3), the modulation of which has been reported in a variety of cancers. Moreover, by using The Cancer Genome Atlas database, we found that overexpression of PDIA3 correlated with about 55% reduction of overall survival of glioma patients. Therefore, we analyzed the expression of ERp57/PDIA3 using specimens obtained after surgery from 18 GB patients. Immunohistochemical analysis of tumor samples revealed ERp57/PDIA3 expression in GB cells as well as in GAMs. The ERp57/PDIA3 levels were higher in GAMs than in the microglia present in the surrounding parenchyma. Therefore, we studied the role of PDIA3 modulation in microglia-glioma interaction, based on the ability of conditioned media collected from human GB cells to induce the activation of microglial cells. The results indicated that reduced PDIA3 expression/activity in GB cells significantly limited the microglia pro-tumor polarization towards the M2 phenotype and the production of pro-inflammatory factors. Our data support a role of PDIA3 expression in GB-mediated protumor activation of microglia.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijms21218214DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7662700PMC
November 2020

Approaching coronavirus disease 2019: Mechanisms of action of repurposed drugs with potential activity against SARS-CoV-2.

Biochem Pharmacol 2020 10 23;180:114169. Epub 2020 Jul 23.

Department of Systems Medicine, University of Rome Tor Vergata, 00133 Rome, Italy. Electronic address:

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the severe acute respiratory syndrome caused by coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) a global pandemic. As of July 2020, SARS-CoV-2 has infected more than 14 million people and provoked more than 590,000 deaths, worldwide. From the beginning, a variety of pharmacological treatments has been empirically used to cope with the life-threatening complications associated with Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Thus far, only a couple of them and not consistently across reports have been shown to further decrease mortality, respect to what can be achieved with supportive care. In most cases, and due to the urgency imposed by the number and severity of the patients' clinical conditions, the choice of treatment has been limited to repurposed drugs, approved for other indications, or investigational agents used for other viral infections often rendered available on a compassionate-use basis. The rationale for drug selection was mainly, though not exclusively, based either i) on the activity against other coronaviruses or RNA viruses in order to potentially hamper viral entry and replication in the epithelial cells of the airways, and/or ii) on the ability to modulate the excessive inflammatory reaction deriving from dysregulated host immune responses against the SARS-CoV-2. In several months, an exceptionally large number of clinical trials have been designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of anti-COVID-19 therapies in different clinical settings (treatment or pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis) and levels of disease severity, but only few of them have been completed so far. This review focuses on the molecular mechanisms of action that have provided the scientific rationale for the empirical use and evaluation in clinical trials of structurally different and often functionally unrelated drugs during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bcp.2020.114169DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7375972PMC
October 2020

Targeting the vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-1 by the monoclonal antibody D16F7 to increase the activity of immune checkpoint inhibitors against cutaneous melanoma.

Pharmacol Res 2020 09 30;159:104957. Epub 2020 May 30.

Department of Systems Medicine, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Via Montpellier 1, 00133, Rome, Italy. Electronic address:

The vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-1 (VEGFR-1) is a membrane receptor for VEGF-A, placenta growth factor (PlGF) and VEGF-B that plays a crucial role in melanoma invasiveness, vasculogenic mimicry and tumor-associated angiogenesis. Furthermore, activation of VEGFR-1 is involved in the mobilization of myeloid progenitors from the bone marrow that infiltrate the tumor. Myeloid-derived suppressor cells and tumor-associated macrophages have been involved in tumor progression and resistance to cancer treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs). We have recently demonstrated that the anti-VEGFR-1 monoclonal antibody (mAb) D16F7 developed in our laboratories is able to inhibit melanoma growth in preclinical in vivo models and to reduce monocyte/macrophage progenitor mobilization and tumor infiltration by myeloid cells. Aim of the study was to investigate whether the anti-VEGFR-1 mAb D16F7 affects the activity of protumoral M2 macrophages in vitro in response to PlGF and inhibits the recruitment of these cells to the melanoma site in vivo. Finally, we tested whether, through its multi-targeted action, D16F7 mAb might increase the efficacy of ICIs against melanoma. The results indicated that VEGFR-1 expression is up-regulated in human activated M2 macrophages compared to activated M1 cells and exposure to the D16F7 mAb decreases in vitro chemotaxis of activated M2 macrophages. In vivo treatment with the anti-VEGFR-1 mAb D16F7 of B6D2F1 mice injected with syngeneic B16F10 melanoma cells resulted in tumor growth inhibition associated with the modification of tumor microenvironment that involves a decrease of melanoma infiltration by M2 macrophages and PD-1+ and FoxP3+ cells. These alterations result in increased M1/M2 and CD8+/FoxP3+ ratios, which favor an antitumor and immunostimulating milieu. Accordingly, D16F7 mAb increased the antitumor activity of the ICIs anti-CTLA-4 and anti-PD-1 mAbs. Overall, these data reinforce the role of VEGFR-1-mediated-signalling as a valid target for reducing tumor infiltration by protumoral macrophages and for improving the efficacy of immunotherapy with ICIs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.phrs.2020.104957DOI Listing
September 2020

Strategies to improve ellagic acid bioavailability: from natural or semisynthetic derivatives to nanotechnological approaches based on innovative carriers.

Nanotechnology 2020 Sep 7;31(38):382001. Epub 2020 May 7.

Department of Systems Medicine, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Via Montpellier 1 00133, Rome, Italy.

Ellagic acid (EA) is a polyphenolic compound whose dietary consumption is mainly associated with the intake of red fruits, including pomegranates, strawberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, raspberries, grapes or dried fruits, like walnuts and almonds. A number of studies indicate that EA exerts health-beneficial effects against several chronic pathologies associated with oxidative damage, including different kinds of cancer, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. Furthermore, EA possesses wound-healing properties, antibacterial and antiviral effects, and acts as a systemic antioxidant. However, clinical applications of this polyphenol have been hampered and prevented by its poor water solubility (9.7 ± 3.2 μg ml in water) and pharmacokinetic profile (limited absorption rate and plasma half-life <1 h after ingestion of pomegranate juice), properties due to the chemical nature of the organic heterotetracyclic compound. Little has been reported on efficient strategies to enhance EA poor oral bioavailability, including chemical structure modifications, encapsulation within nano-microspheres to be used as carriers, and molecular dispersion in polymer matrices. In this review we summarize the experimental approaches investigated so far in order to improve EA pharmacokinetics, supporting the hypothesis that enhancement in EA solubility is a feasible route for increasing its oral absorption.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1361-6528/ab912cDOI Listing
September 2020

Defective proteasome biogenesis into skin fibroblasts isolated from Rett syndrome subjects with MeCP2 non-sense mutations.

Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Basis Dis 2020 07 8;1866(7):165793. Epub 2020 Apr 8.

Dept of Clinical Sciences and Translational Medicine, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy. Electronic address:

Rett Syndrome (RTT) is a rare X-linked neurodevelopmental disorder which affects about 1: 10000 live births. In >95% of subjects RTT is caused by a mutation in Methyl-CpG binding protein-2 (MECP2) gene, which encodes for a transcription regulator with pleiotropic genetic/epigenetic activities. The molecular mechanisms underscoring the phenotypic alteration of RTT are largely unknown and this has impaired the development of therapeutic approaches to alleviate signs and symptoms during disease progression. A defective proteasome biogenesis into two skin primary fibroblasts isolated from RTT subjects harbouring non-sense (early-truncating) MeCP2 mutations (i.e., R190fs and R255X) is herewith reported. Proteasome is the proteolytic machinery of Ubiquitin Proteasome System (UPS), a pathway of overwhelming relevance for post-mitotic cells metabolism. Molecular, transcription and proteomic analyses indicate that MeCP2 mutations down-regulate the expression of one proteasome subunit, α7, and of two chaperones, PAC1 and PAC2, which bind each other in the earliest step of proteasome biogenesis. Furthermore, this molecular alteration recapitulates in neuron-like SH-SY5Y cells upon silencing of MeCP2 expression, envisaging a general significance of this transcription regulator in proteasome biogenesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbadis.2020.165793DOI Listing
July 2020

Vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 1 in glioblastoma‑associated microglia/macrophages.

Oncol Rep 2020 06 19;43(6):2083-2092. Epub 2020 Mar 19.

Institute of Pharmacology, Catholic University Medical School, I‑00168 Rome, Italy.

The anti‑vascular endothelial growth factor‑A (VEGF‑A) monoclonal antibody (mAb) bevacizumab is an FDA‑approved monotherapy for the treatment of recurrent glioblastoma (GB), a highly angiogenic and infiltrative tumour. However, bevacizumab does not increase overall survival and blockade of VEGF‑A/VEGF receptor (VEGFR)‑2 signal transduction is associated with severe adverse effects due to inhibition of physiological angiogenesis. Conversely, VEGFR‑1 does not play a relevant role in physiological angiogenesis in the adult. VEGFR‑1 is activated by both VEGF‑A and placenta growth factor (PlGF), a protein involved in tumour growth and progression. In previous studies, it was demonstrated that inhibition of VEGFR‑1 using a specific mAb developed in our laboratories reduced angiogenesis and GB cell chemotaxis and increased the survival of tumour‑bearing mice. Failure of treatments directed toward the VEGF‑A/VEGFR‑2 axis could in part be due to inefficient targeting of the tumour microenvironment. In the present study, VEGFR‑1 expression was investigated in GB‑associated microglia/macrophages (GAMs) by analysing surgical specimens collected from 42 patients with GB. Data obtained from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) database revealed that upregulation of the VEGFR‑1 ligands VEGF‑A and PlGF was associated with a significant reduction in overall survival for patients with GB, highlighting the potential relevance of this receptor in the aggressiveness of GB. Immunohistochemical analysis indicated that VEGFR‑1 is expressed not only in GB tissue but also in GAMs. Furthermore, the percentage of VEGFR‑1‑positive GAMs was significantly higher in the tumour region compared with that noted in the surrounding parenchyma. Thus, VEGFR‑1 represents a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of GB, being present not only in GB and endothelial cells, but also in GAMs that are involved in tumour progression.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3892/or.2020.7553DOI Listing
June 2020

Role of VEGFs/VEGFR-1 Signaling and its Inhibition in Modulating Tumor Invasion: Experimental Evidence in Different Metastatic Cancer Models.

Int J Mol Sci 2020 Feb 18;21(4). Epub 2020 Feb 18.

Department of Systems Medicine, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Via Montpellier 1, 00133 Rome, Italy.

The vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) family members, VEGF-A, placenta growth factor (PlGF), and to a lesser extent VEGF-B, play an essential role in tumor-associated angiogenesis, tissue infiltration, and metastasis formation. Although VEGF-A can activate both VEGFR-1 and VEGFR-2 membrane receptors, PlGF and VEGF-B exclusively interact with VEGFR-1. Differently from VEGFR-2, which is involved both in physiological and pathological angiogenesis, in the adult VEGFR-1 is required only for pathological angiogenesis. Besides this role in tumor endothelium, ligand-mediated stimulation of VEGFR-1 expressed in tumor cells may directly induce cell chemotaxis and extracellular matrix invasion. Furthermore, VEGFR-1 activation in myeloid progenitors and tumor-associated macrophages favors cancer immune escape through the release of immunosuppressive cytokines. These properties have prompted a number of preclinical and clinical studies to analyze VEGFR-1 involvement in the metastatic process. The aim of the present review is to highlight the contribution of VEGFs/VEGFR-1 signaling in the progression of different tumor types and to provide an overview of the therapeutic approaches targeting VEGFR-1 currently under investigation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijms21041388DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7073125PMC
February 2020

DNA inhibitors for the treatment of brain tumors.

Expert Opin Drug Metab Toxicol 2020 Mar 26;16(3):195-207. Epub 2020 Feb 26.

Department of Systems Medicine, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy.

: The worldwide incidence of central nervous system (CNS) primary tumors is increasing. Most of the chemotherapeutic agents used for treating these cancer types induce DNA damage, and their activity is affected by the functional status of repair systems involved in the detection or correction of DNA lesions. Unfortunately, treatment of malignant high-grade tumors is still an unmet medical need.: We summarize the action mechanisms of the main DNA inhibitors used for the treatment of brain tumors. In addition, studies on new agents or drug combinations investigated for this indication are reviewed, focusing our attention on clinical trials that in the last 3 years have been completed, terminated or are still recruiting patients.: Much still needs to be done to render aggressive CNS tumors curable or at least to transform them from lethal to chronic diseases, as it is possible for other cancer types. Drugs with improved penetration in the CNS, toxicity profile, and activity against primary and recurrent tumors are eagerly needed. Targeted agents with innovative mechanisms of action and ability to harness the cells of the tumor microenvironment against cancer cells represent a promising approach for improving the clinical outcome of CNS tumors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17425255.2020.1729352DOI Listing
March 2020

Role of VEGFR-1 in melanoma acquired resistance to the BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib.

J Cell Mol Med 2020 01 23;24(1):465-475. Epub 2019 Nov 23.

Department of Systems Medicine, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy.

The vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-1 (VEGFR-1) is a tyrosine kinase receptor frequently expressed in melanoma. Its activation by VEGF-A or placental growth factor (PlGF) promotes tumour cell survival, migration and invasiveness. Moreover, VEGFR-1 stimulation contributes to pathological angiogenesis and induces recruitment of tumour-associated macrophages. Since melanoma acquired resistance to BRAF inhibitors (BRAFi) has been associated with activation of pro-angiogenic pathways, we have investigated VEGFR-1 involvement in vemurafenib resistance. Results indicate that human melanoma cells rendered resistant to vemurafenib secrete greater amounts of VEGF-A and express higher VEGFR-1 levels compared with their BRAFi-sensitive counterparts. Transient VEGFR-1 silencing in susceptible melanoma cells delays resistance development, whereas in resistant cells it increases sensitivity to the BRAFi. Consistently, enforced VEGFR-1 expression, by stable gene transfection in receptor-negative melanoma cells, markedly reduces sensitivity to vemurafenib. Moreover, melanoma cells expressing VEGFR-1 are more invasive than VEGFR-1 deficient cells and receptor blockade by a specific monoclonal antibody (D16F7 mAb) reduces extracellular matrix invasion triggered by VEGF-A and PlGF. These data suggest that VEGFR-1 up-regulation might contribute to melanoma progression and spreading after acquisition of a drug-resistant phenotype. Thus, VEGFR-1 inhibition with D16F7 mAb might be a suitable adjunct therapy for VEGFR-1 positive tumours with acquired resistance to vemurafenib.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jcmm.14755DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6933379PMC
January 2020

Effects of Glutathione Transferase-Targeting Nitrobenzoxadiazole Compounds in Relation to PD-L1 Status in Human Melanoma Cells.

Chemotherapy 2019 22;64(3):138-145. Epub 2019 Oct 22.

Department of Experimental Medicine, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy,

Background: PD-L1 is a membrane protein with inhibitory effects on immune responses, whose expression has been correlated with high aggressiveness and the propensity of melanoma to metastasize. The nitrobenzoxadiazole (NBD) NBDHEX and its analog MC3181 are endowed with strong antitumor activity towards melanoma and a significant ability to reduce its adhesion and invasiveness. Therefore, we investigated whether PD-L1 status could affect cell sensitivity to the cytotoxic effects of NBDs. We then evaluated the effects of NBDHEX on PD-L1 expression and autophagy in melanoma cells. We used the BRAF-mutated A375 melanoma cell line and an A375 variant population enriched for PD-L1+ cells as a model. The cytotoxic effects of NBDs were evaluated in comparison to those of the BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib and the autophagy inhibitor chloroquine.

Methods: The effect of NBDHEX on autophagy was determined by measuring LC3-II and p62 protein levels by Western blot. The cytotoxic activity of the compounds was evaluated by sulforhodamine B assay. PD-L1 expression and plasma membrane localization were analyzed by FACS and Western blot analysis.

Results: NBDHEX behaves as a late-autophagy inhibitor in A375 melanoma cells, as previously found in other tumor cell lines. NBDHEX and MC3181 showed strong and comparable cytotoxic activity in both parental and PD-L1+ A375 cells, with IC50 values in the sub-micromolar range. Conversely, cells sorted for high PD-L1 expression had lower sensitivity to both the BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib and the autophagy inhibitor chloroquine. NBDHEX treatment did not change the total expression and cell surface localization of PD-L1 in both parental and PD-L1+ A375 cells.

Conclusions: Our data suggest that NBDs may represent a promising treatment strategy for melanoma with elevated PD-L1 expression.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000503339DOI Listing
December 2019

Cytotoxicity and Differentiating Effect of the Poly(ADP-Ribose) Polymerase Inhibitor Olaparib in Myelodysplastic Syndromes.

Cancers (Basel) 2019 Sep 16;11(9). Epub 2019 Sep 16.

Hematology Section, Department of Biomedicine and Prevention, University of Rome Tor Vergata, 00133 Rome, Italy.

Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are highly heterogeneous myeloid diseases, characterized by frequent genetic/chromosomal aberrations. Olaparib is a potent, orally bioavailable poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 (PARP1) inhibitor with acceptable toxicity profile, designed as targeted therapy for DNA repair defective tumors. Here, we investigated olaparib activity in primary cultures of bone marrow mononuclear cells collected from patients with MDS ( = 28). A single treatment with olaparib induced cytotoxic effects in most samples, with median IC of 5.4 µM (2.0-24.8 µM), lower than plasma peak concentration reached in vivo. In addition, olaparib induced DNA damage as shown by a high proportion of γH2AX positive cells in samples with low ICs. Olaparib preferentially killed myeloid cells causing a significant reduction of blasts and promyelocytes, paralleled by an increase in metamyelocytes and mature granulocytes while sparing lymphocytes that are not part of the MDS clone. Consistently, flow cytometry analysis revealed a decrease of CD117+/CD123+ immature progenitors ( < 0.001) and induction of CD11b+/CD16+ ( < 0.001) and CD10+/CD15+ ( < 0.01) neutrophils. Morphological and immunophenotypic changes were associated with a dose-dependent increase of PU.1 and CEBPA transcription factors, which are drivers of granulocytic and monocytic differentiation. Moreover, the combination of olaparib with decitabine resulted in augmented cytotoxic and differentiating effects. Our data suggest that olaparib may have therapeutic potential in MDS patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers11091373DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6769925PMC
September 2019

On the Horizon: Targeting Next-Generation Immune Checkpoints for Cancer Treatment.

Chemotherapy 2019 6;64(2):62-80. Epub 2019 Aug 6.

Laboratory of Molecular Oncology, Istituto Dermopatico dell'Immacolata, IDI-IRCCS, Rome, Italy.

Background: Immune checkpoints are critical regulatory pathways of the immune system which finely tune the response to biological threats. Among them, the CD-28/CTLA-4 and PD-1/PD-L1 axes play a key role in tumour immune escape and are well-established targets of cancer immunotherapy.

Summary: The clinical experience accumulated to date provides unequivocal evidence that anti-CTLA-4, PD-1, or PD-L1 monoclonal antibodies, used as monotherapy or in combination regimes, are effective in a variety of advanced/metastatic types of cancer, with improved clinical outcomes compared to conventional chemotherapy. However, the therapeutic success is currently restricted to a limited subset of patients and reliable predictive biomarkers are still lacking. Key Message: The identification and characterization of additional co-inhibitory pathways as novel pharmacological targets to improve the clinical response in refractory patients has led to the development of different immune checkpoint inhibitors, the activities of which are currently under investigation. In this review, we discuss recent literature data concerning the mechanisms of action of next-generation monoclonal antibodies targeting LAG-3, TIM-3, and TIGIT co-inhibitory molecules that are being explored in clinical trials, as single agents or in combination with other immune-stimulating agents.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000500902DOI Listing
November 2019

Targeting ADP-ribosylation by PARP inhibitors in acute myeloid leukaemia and related disorders.

Biochem Pharmacol 2019 09 24;167:133-148. Epub 2019 Apr 24.

Department of Systems Medicine, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy. Electronic address:

Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is a highly heterogeneous disease characterized by uncontrolled proliferation, block in myeloid differentiation and recurrent genetic abnormalities. In the search of new effective therapies, identification of synthetic lethal partners of AML genetic alterations might represent a suitable approach to tailor patient treatment. Genetic mutations directly affecting DNA repair genes are not commonly present in AML. Nevertheless, several studies indicate that AML cells show high levels of DNA lesions and genomic instability. Leukaemia-driving oncogenes (e.g., RUNX1-RUNXT1, PML-RARA, TCF3-HLF, IDH1/2, TET2) or treatment with targeted agents directed against aberrant kinases (e.g., JAK1/2 and FLT3 inhibitors) have been associated with reduced DNA repair gene expression/activity that would render leukaemia blasts selectively sensitive to synthetic lethality induced by poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibitors (PARPi). Thus, specific oncogenic chimeric proteins or gene mutations, rare or typically distinctive of certain leukaemia subtypes, may allow tagging cancer cells for destruction by PARPi. In this review, we will discuss the rationale for using PARPi in AML subtypes characterized by a specific genetic background and summarize the preclinical and clinical evidence reported so far on their activity when used as single agents or in combination with classical cytotoxic chemotherapy or with agents targeting AML-associated mutated proteins.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bcp.2019.04.019DOI Listing
September 2019

Role of BRCA Mutations in Cancer Treatment with Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerase (PARP) Inhibitors.

Cancers (Basel) 2018 Dec 4;10(12). Epub 2018 Dec 4.

Department of Systems Medicine, University of Rome Tor Vergata, 00173 Rom, Italy.

Inhibition of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) activity induces synthetic lethality in mutated BRCA1/2 cancers by selectively targeting tumor cells that fail to repair DNA double strand breaks (DSBs). Clinical studies have confirmed the validity of the synthetic lethality approach and four different PARP inhibitors (PARPi; olaparib, rucaparib, niraparib and talazoparib) have been approved as monotherapies for BRCA-mutated or platinum-sensitive recurrent ovarian cancer and/or for BRCA-mutated HER2-negative metastatic breast cancer. PARPi therapeutic efficacy is higher against tumors harboring deleterious germline or somatic BRCA mutations than in BRCA wild-type tumors. BRCA mutations or intrinsic tumor sensitivity to platinum compounds are both regarded as indicators of deficiency in DSB repair by homologous recombination as well as of favorable response to PARPi. However, not all BRCA-mutated or platinum-responsive patients obtain clinical benefit from these agents. Conversely, a certain percentage of patients with wild-type BRCA or platinum-resistant tumors can still get benefit from PARPi. Thus, additional reliable markers need to be validated in clinical trials to select patients potentially eligible for PARPi-based therapies, in the absence of deleterious BRCA mutations or platinum sensitivity. In this review, we summarize the mechanisms of action of PARPi and the clinical evidence supporting their use as anticancer drugs as well as the additional synthetic lethal partners that might confer sensitivity to PARPi in patients with wild-type BRCA tumors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers10120487DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6316750PMC
December 2018

Experimental Evidence of the Antitumor, Antimetastatic and Antiangiogenic Activity of Ellagic Acid.

Nutrients 2018 Nov 14;10(11). Epub 2018 Nov 14.

Department of Systems Medicine, University of Rome Tor Vergata, 00173 Rome, Italy.

Ellagic acid (EA) is a naturally occurring polyphenolic compound endowed with strong antioxidant and anticancer properties that is present in high quantity in a variety of berries, pomegranates, and dried fruits. The antitumor activity of EA has been mostly attributed to direct antiproliferative and apoptotic effects. Moreover, EA can inhibit tumour cell migration, extra-cellular matrix invasion and angiogenesis, all processes that are crucial for tumour infiltrative behaviour and the metastatic process. In addition, EA may increase tumour sensitivity to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The aim of this review is to summarize the in vitro and in vivo experimental evidence supporting the anticancer activity of pure EA, its metabolites, and EA-containing fruit juice or extracts in a variety of solid tumour models. The EA oral administration as supportive therapy to standard chemotherapy has been recently evaluated in small clinical studies with colorectal or prostate cancer patients. Novel formulations with improved solubility and bioavailability are expected to fully develop the therapeutic potential of EA derivatives in the near future.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu10111756DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6266224PMC
November 2018

Therapeutic implication of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-1 (VEGFR-1) targeting in cancer cells and tumor microenvironment by competitive and non-competitive inhibitors.

Pharmacol Res 2018 10 28;136:97-107. Epub 2018 Aug 28.

Department of Systems Medicine, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Via Montpellier 1, 00133 Rome, Italy. Electronic address:

The vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-1 (VEGFR-1) is a tyrosine kinase receptor for VEGF-A, VEGF-B, and placental growth factor (PlGF) ligands that is expressed in endothelial, myelomonocytic and tumor cells. VEGF-B and PlGF exclusively bind to VEGFR-1, whereas VEGF-A also binds to VEGFR-2. At variance with VEGFR-2, VEGFR-1 does not play a relevant role in physiological angiogenesis in the adult, while it is important in tumor-associated angiogenesis. VEGFR-1 and PlGF are expressed in a variety of tumors, promote invasiveness and contribute to resistance to anti-VEGF-A therapy. The currently approved antiangiogenic therapies for the treatment of a variety of solid tumors hamper VEGF-A signaling mediated by both VEGFR-2 and VEGFR-1 [i.e., the monoclonal antibody (mAb) anti-VEGF-A bevacizumab, the chimeric molecule aflibercept and several small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors] or exclusively by VEGFR-2 (i.e., the mAb anti-VEGFR-2 ramucirumab). However, molecules that interfere with VEGF-A/VEGFR-2 signaling determine severe adverse effects due to inhibition of physiological angiogenesis and their efficacy is hampered by tumor infiltration of protumoral myeloid cells. Blockade of VEGFR-1 may exert anti-tumor activity by multiple mechanisms: a) inhibition of tumor-associated angiogenesis; b) reduction of myeloid progenitor mobilization and tumor infiltration by VEGFR-1 expressing M2 macrophages, which contribute to tumor progression and spreading; c) inhibition of invasiveness, vasculogenic mimicry and survival of VEGFR-1 positive tumor cells. As a consequence of these properties, molecules targeting VEGFR-1 are expected to produce less adverse effects and to counteract resistance towards anti-VEGF-A therapies. More interestingly, selective VEGFR-1 inhibition might enhance the efficacy of immunotherapy with immune checkpoint inhibitors. In this review, we will examine the experimental evidence available so far that supports targeting VEGFR-1 signal transduction pathway for cancer treatment by competitive inhibitors that prevent growth factor interaction with the receptor and non-competitive inhibitors that hamper receptor activation without affecting ligand binding.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.phrs.2018.08.023DOI Listing
October 2018

Beneficial and Detrimental Effects of Antiretroviral Therapy on HIV-Associated Immunosenescence.

Chemotherapy 2018 Mar 13;63(2):64-75. Epub 2018 Mar 13.

Since the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy more than 2 decades ago, HIV-related deaths have dramatically decreased and HIV infection has become a chronic disease. Due to the inability of antiretroviral drugs to eradicate the virus, treatment of HIV infection requires a systemic lifelong therapy. However, even when successfully treated, HIV patients still show increased incidence of age-associated co-morbidities compared with uninfected individuals. Virus- induced immunosenescence, a process characterized by a progressive decline of immune system function, contributes to the premature ageing observed in HIV patients. Although antiretroviral therapy has significantly improved both the quality and length of patient lives, the life expectancy of treated patients is still shorter compared with that of uninfected individuals. In particular, while antiretroviral therapy can contrast some features of HIV-associated immunosenescence, several anti-HIV agents may themselves contribute to other aspects of immune ageing. Moreover, older HIV patients tend to have a worse immunological response to the antiviral therapy. In this review we will examine the available evidence on the role of antiretroviral therapy in the control of the main features regulating immunosenescence.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000487534DOI Listing
March 2018

Drug-induced xenogenization of tumors: A possible role in the immune control of malignant cell growth in the brain?

Pharmacol Res 2018 05 9;131:1-6. Epub 2018 Mar 9.

Department of Systems Medicine, Medical Oncology, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy.

In recent years, immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICpI) have provided the ground to bring tumor immunity back to life thanks to their capacity to afford a real clinical benefit in terms of patient's survival. Essential to ICpI success is the presence of tumor-associated neoantigens generated by non-synonymous mutations, since a direct relationship between mutation load of malignant cells and susceptibility to ICpI has been confidently established. However, it has been also suggested that high intratumor heterogeneity (ITH) associated with subclonal neoantigens could not elicit adequate immune responses. Several years ago we discovered that in vivo treatment of leukemic mice with triazene compounds (TZC) produces a marked increase of leukemia cell immunogenicity [a phenomenon termed Drug-Induced Xenogenization (DIX)] through point mutations able to generate strong tumor neoantigens (Drug-Induced Neoantigens, DIN). Immunogenic mutations are produced by TZC-dependent methylation of O6-guanine of DNA, that is suppressed by the DNA repair protein methyl-guaninemethyltransferase (MGMT). This minireview illustrates preclinical investigations conducted in animal models where DIN-positive murine leukemia cells were inoculated intracerebrally into histocompatible mice. The analysis of the literature indicates that the growth of xenogenized malignant cells is controlled by anti-DIN graft responses and by intra-cerebral or intravenous adoptive transfer of anti-DIN cytotoxic T lymphocytes. This survey reminds also that PARP inhibitors increase substantially the antitumor activity of TZC and can be administered with the intent of suppressing more efficiently tumor load and possibly reducing ITH through downsizing the polyclonality of xenogenized tumor cell population. Finally, the present report illustrates a hypothetical clinical protocol that could be considered as an example of future development of DIXbased tumor immuno-chemotherapy in brain malignancies. The protocol involves oral or intravenous administration of TZC along with loco-regional (i.e. intracerebral "wafer") treatment with agents able to increase tumor cell sensitivity to the cytotoxic and xenogenizing effects of TZC (i.e. MGMT and PARP inhibitors) without enhancing the systemic toxicity of these DNA methylating compounds.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.phrs.2018.03.005DOI Listing
May 2018

The poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibitor olaparib induces up-regulation of death receptors in primary acute myeloid leukemia blasts by NF-κB activation.

Cancer Lett 2018 06 8;423:127-138. Epub 2018 Mar 8.

Department of Systems Medicine, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy. Electronic address:

Olaparib is a potent orally bioavailable poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibitor (PARPi), approved for BRCA-mutated ovarian and breast cancers. We recently showed that olaparib at clinically achievable concentrations exerts anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects in vitro as monotherapy against primary acute myeloid leukemia (AML) blasts, while sparing normal bone marrow (BM) hematopoietic cells. Since AML expresses low levels of death receptors that may contribute to apoptosis resistance, in this study we investigated whether the anti-leukemia activity of olaparib involves modulation of FAS and TRAIL receptors DR5 and DR4. Our data show that the primary AML samples tested express FAS and DR5 transcripts at levels lower than normal BM. In this context, apoptosis triggered by olaparib is associated with a dose-dependent up-regulation of death receptors expression and caspase 8 activation. Olaparib-mediated FAS up-regulation requires NF-κB activation, as indicated by the increase of p65 phosphorylation and decrease of IκBα. Moreover, FAS up-regulation is abrogated by pretreatment of AML cells with two different NF-κB inhibitors. These results indicate that NF-κB activation and consequent induction of death receptor expression contribute to the anti-leukemia effect of olaparib in AML.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.canlet.2018.03.008DOI Listing
June 2018

Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibitor olaparib hampers placental growth factor-driven activation of myelomonocytic cells.

Oncol Rep 2018 May 5;39(5):2261-2269. Epub 2018 Mar 5.

Department of Systems Medicine, University of Rome 'Tor Vergata', I‑00133 Rome, Italy.

The vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-1 (VEGFR-1) is a tyrosine kinase receptor activated by the angiogenic factors VEGF‑A and placental growth factor (PlGF). While VEGF‑A binds to both VEGFR‑1 and VEGFR‑2, PlGF interacts exclusively with VEGFR‑1 triggering a signaling pathway involved in: i) tumor‑associated angiogenesis; ii) chemotaxis and invasion of the extracellular matrix (ECM) by cancer cells; and iii) mobilization of bone marrow‑derived myeloid cells that generate tumor‑associated macrophages. By using a novel anti‑VEGFR‑1 monoclonal antibody (D16F7 mAb), which hampers receptor activation without avoiding ligand binding, we recently demonstrated that VEGFR‑1 blockade reduced myeloid progenitor mobilization and monocyte/macrophage cell infiltration of tumor grafts in vivo. Since poly(ADP‑ribose) polymerase (PARP)‑1 exerts a pro‑inflammatory role favoring monocyte activation, in the present study we investigated whether the PARP inhibitor (PARPi) olaparib hampers PlGF‑induced activation of human myelomonocytic cells. HL‑60 cells induced to differentiate towards the monocytic/macrophage lineage were tested and the results were confirmed in freshly isolated monocytes obtained from healthy donors. Cells were treated with olaparib, at clinically achievable concentrations, before exposure to PlGF and were analyzed for migration and ECM invasion in response to PlGF. Olaparib effects were compared to those obtained with D16F7 mAb used as single agent or in combination with the PARPi. The results indicate that differentiated HL‑60 cells and monocytes expressed VEGFR‑1 and migrated in response to PlGF. Moreover, olaparib and D16F7 inhibited PlGF‑induced chemotaxis and ECM invasion in a dose‑dependent manner and with similar efficacy. However, in combination studies the PARPi and D16F7 did not exert synergistic effects. Olaparib also hampered PlGF‑induced monocyte adhesion to fibronectin, while it did not affect NF‑κB activation in response to the angiogenic factor. These data suggest that olaparib likely interferes with the same pathway affected by the anti‑VEGFR‑1 mAb and that inhibition of PlGF-induced monocyte activation may contribute to PARPi antitumor activity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3892/or.2018.6291DOI Listing
May 2018

EGFR heterogeneity and implications for therapeutic intervention in glioblastoma.

Neuro Oncol 2018 05;20(6):743-752

Department of Biomedicine, University of Bergen, Norway.

Patients with glioblastoma (GBM) have a universally poor prognosis and are in urgent need of effective treatment strategies. Recent advances in sequencing techniques unraveled the complete genomic landscape of GBMs and revealed profound heterogeneity of individual tumors even at the single cell level. Genomic profiling has detected epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene alterations in more than half of GBMs. Major genetic events include amplification and mutation of EGFR. Yet, treatment strategies targeting EGFR have thus far failed in clinical trials. In this review, we discuss the clonal and functional heterogeneity of EGFRs in GBM development and critically reassess the potential of EGFRs as therapeutic targets.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/neuonc/nox191DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5961011PMC
May 2018

The Anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-1 Monoclonal Antibody D16F7 Inhibits Glioma Growth and Angiogenesis In Vivo.

J Pharmacol Exp Ther 2018 01 12;364(1):77-86. Epub 2017 Oct 12.

Departments of Systems Medicine (M.G.A., L.T., C.C., G.G.) and Experimental Medicine and Surgery (E.B., M.S.), University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy; and Laboratory of Molecular Oncology, "Istituto Dermopatico dell'Immacolata"-Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico, Rome, Italy (F.R., P.M.L.)

The vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor-1 (VEGFR-1) is a tyrosine kinase receptor that does not play a relevant role in physiologic angiogenesis in adults, whereas it is important in tumor angiogenesis. In high-grade glioma VEGFR-1 expression by tumor endothelium and neoplastic cells contributes to the aggressive phenotype. We recently generated an anti-VEGFR-1 monoclonal antibody (D16F7 mAb) characterized by a novel mechanism of action, since it hampers receptor activation without interfering with ligand binding. The mAb is able to inhibit chemotaxis and extracellular matrix invasion of glioma cells in vitro stimulated by VEGF-A and by the VEGFR-1-selective ligand placental growth factor (PlGF). In this study, we have investigated the influence of D16F7 on glioma growth and angiogenesis in vivo using C6 glioma cells transfected with the human VEGFR-1. D16F7 was able to inhibit receptor activation and migration and extracellular matrix invasion of C6 cells overexpressing the receptor in response to PlGF and VEGF-A. In nude mice, treatment with 10 and 20 mg/kg D16F7 as a single agent was well tolerated and significantly inhibited glioma growth ( < 0.001). Strikingly, in an intracranial orthotopic model, mice dosed with 20 mg/kg D16F7 demonstrated a 65% increase in median survival time compared with vehicle-treated controls ( < 0.001) with a high percentage of long-term survivors (46%). These effects were associated with glioma cell apoptosis and decreased tumor-associated vessel formation. Overall, these results highlight the therapeutic potential of D16F7 in glioma treatment, deserving further investigation after a humanization process as single agent or in combination therapies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1124/jpet.117.244434DOI Listing
January 2018
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