Publications by authors named "Luca Massacesi"

55 Publications

The contribution of the Italian residents in neurology to the COVID-19 crisis: admirable generosity but neurological training remains their priority.

Neurol Sci 2021 Nov 10;42(11):4425-4431. Epub 2021 Aug 10.

Department of Human Neurosciences, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy.

Background: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has severely impacted the Italian healthcare system, underscoring a dramatic shortage of specialized doctors in many disciplines. The situation affected the activity of the residents in neurology, who were also offered the possibility of being formally hired before their training completion.

Aims: (1) To showcase examples of clinical and research activity of residents in neurology during the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy and (2) to illustrate the point of view of Italian residents in neurology about the possibility of being hired before the completion of their residency program.

Results: Real-life reports from several areas in Lombardia-one of the Italian regions more affected by COVID-19-show that residents in neurology gave an outstanding demonstration of generosity, collaboration, reliability, and adaptation to the changing environment, while continuing their clinical training and research activities. A very small minority of the residents participated in the dedicated selections for being hired before completion of their training program. The large majority of them prioritized their training over the option of earlier employment.

Conclusions: Italian residents in neurology generously contributed to the healthcare management of the COVID-19 pandemic in many ways, while remaining determined to pursue their training. Neurology is a rapidly evolving clinical field due to continuous diagnostic and therapeutic progress. Stakeholders need to listen to the strong message conveyed by our residents in neurology and endeavor to provide them with the most adequate training, to ensure high quality of care and excellence in research in the future.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10072-021-05346-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8353936PMC
November 2021

Prediction of seizure recurrence risk following discontinuation of antiepileptic drugs.

Epilepsia 2021 Sep 12;62(9):2159-2170. Epub 2021 Jul 12.

Department Neurology 2, Careggi University Hospital, Florence, Italy.

Objective: Discontinuation of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) in seizure-free patients is an important goal because of possible long-term side effects and the social stigma burden of epilepsy. The purpose of this work was to assess seizure recurrence risk after suspension of AEDs, to evaluate predictors for recurrence, and to investigate the recovery of seizure control after relapse. In addition, the accuracy of a previously published prediction model of seizure recurrence risk was estimated.

Methods: Seizure-free patients with epilepsy who had discontinued AEDs were retrospectively enrolled. The frequency of seizure relapses after AED withdrawal as well as prognosis after recurrence were assessed and the predictive role of baseline clinical-demographic variables was evaluated. The aforementioned prediction model was also validated and its accuracy assessed at different seizure-relapse probability levels.

Results: The enrolled patients (n = 133) had been followed for a median of 3 years (range 0.8-33 years) after AED discontinuation; 60 (45%) of them relapsed. Previous febrile seizures in childhood (hazard ratio [HR] 3.927; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.403-10.988), a seizure-free period on therapy of less than 2 years (HR 2.313; 95% CI 1.193-4.486), and persistent motor deficits (HR 4.568; 95% CI 1.412-14.772) were the clinical features associated with relapse risk in univariate analysis. Among these variables, only a seizure-free period on therapy of less than 2 years was associated with seizure recurrence in multivariate analysis (HR 2.365; 95% CI 1.178-4.7444). Pharmacological control of epilepsy was restored in 82.4% of the patients who relapsed. In this population, the aforementioned prediction model showed an unsatisfactory accuracy.

Significance: A period of freedom from seizure on therapy of less than 2 years was the main predictor of seizure recurrence. The accuracy of the previously described prediction tool was low in this cohort, thus suggesting its cautious use in real-world clinical practice.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/epi.16993DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8457060PMC
September 2021

TCR repertoire diversity in Multiple Sclerosis: High-dimensional bioinformatics analysis of sequences from brain, cerebrospinal fluid and peripheral blood.

EBioMedicine 2021 Jun 11;68:103429. Epub 2021 Jun 11.

Dipartimento di Medicina Sperimentale e Clinica (DMSC), Laboratory of Neuroimmunology, University of Florence, Viale Pieraccini 6, 50139 Florence, Italy. Electronic address:

Background: T cells play a key role in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic, inflammatory, demyelinating disease of the central nervous system (CNS). Although several studies recently investigated the T-cell receptor (TCR) repertoire in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of MS patients by high-throughput sequencing (HTS), a deep analysis on repertoire similarities and differences among compartments is still missing.

Methods: We performed comprehensive bioinformatics on high-dimensional TCR Vβ sequencing data from published and unpublished MS and healthy donors (HD) studies. We evaluated repertoire polarization, clone distribution, shared CDR3 amino acid sequences (CDR3s-a.a.) across repertoires, clone overlap with public databases, and TCR similarity architecture.

Findings: CSF repertoires showed a significantly higher public clones percentage and sequence similarity compared to peripheral blood (PB). On the other hand, we failed to reject the null hypothesis that the repertoire polarization is the same between CSF and PB. One Primary-Progressive MS (PPMS) CSF repertoire differed from the others in terms of TCR similarity architecture. Cluster analysis splits MS from HD.

Interpretation: In MS patients, the presence of a physiological barrier, the blood-brain barrier, does not impact clone prevalence and distribution, but impacts public clones, indicating CSF as a more private site. We reported a high Vβ sequence similarity in the CSF-TCR architecture in one PPMS. If confirmed it may be an interesting insight into MS progressive inflammatory mechanisms. The clustering of MS repertoires from HD suggests that disease shapes the TCR Vβ clonal profile.

Funding: This study was partly financially supported by the Italian Multiple Sclerosis Foundation (FISM), that contributed to Ballerini-DB data collection (grant #2015 R02).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ebiom.2021.103429DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8245901PMC
June 2021

Long-Term Clinical Outcomes of Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation in Multiple Sclerosis.

Neurology 2021 01 20. Epub 2021 Jan 20.

Gianluigi Mancardi Department of Neurology, Rehabilitation, Ophthalmology, Genetics, Maternal and Child Health, University of Genoa and Ospedale Policlinico San Martino, IRCCS, Genoa, Italy and IRCCS Scientific Clinical Institutes Maugeri, Pavia-Genoa Nervi/Italy.

Objective: To determine whether autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (aHSCT) is able to induce durable disease remission in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), we analyzed the long-term outcomes after transplant in a large cohort of MS patients.

Methods: To be included, a minimum data set (consisting of age, MS phenotype, EDSS at baseline, information on transplant technology and at least 1 follow-up visit after transplant) was required.

Results: 210 patients were included [relapsing-remitting (RR)MS=122(58%)]. Median baseline EDSS was 6(1-9), mean follow-up was 6.2(±5.0) years. Among RRMS patients, disability worsening-free survival (95%CI) was 85.5%(76.9-94.1%) at 5 years and 71.3%(57.8-84.8%) at 10 years. In patients with progressive MS, disability worsening-free survival was 71.0%(59.4-82.6%) and 57.2%(41.8-72.7%) at 5 and 10 years, respectively. In RRMS patients, EDSS significantly reduced after aHSCT [p=0.001; mean EDSS change per year -0.09 (95%CI=-0.15 to -0.04%)]. In RRMS patients, the use of the BEAM+ATG conditioning protocol was independently associated with a reduced risk of NEDA-3 failure [HR=0.27(0.14-0.50), p<0.001]. Three patients died within 100-days from aHSCT (1.4%); no deaths occurred in patients transplanted after 2007.

Conclusions: aHSCT prevents disability worsening in the majority of patients and induces durable improvement in disability in patients with RRMS. The BEAM+ATG conditioning protocol is associated with a more pronounced suppression of clinical relapses and MRI inflammatory activity.

Classification Of Evidence: This study provides Class IV evidence that for people with MS, aHSCT induces durable disease remission in most patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0000000000011461DOI Listing
January 2021

Sustained disease remission after discontinuation of disease modifying treatments in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.

Mult Scler Relat Disord 2021 Jan 21;47:102591. Epub 2020 Oct 21.

Deparment of Neurology 2, Careggi University Hospital, Florence, Italy.

Background: The natural history of multiple sclerosis (MS) following discontinuation of a first-line disease-modifying treatment (DMT) in relapsing-remitting (RR-) MS patients is controversial, as few data are available on the risk of disease reactivation. This study aims to investigate the disease course after DMT discontinuation in selected RR-MS patients, exploring potential predictive factors of disease reactivation.

Methods: RR-MS patients, aged 18-65, who had discontinued a first-line DMT were selected from 1107 clinical records. Relapses, disability worsening and new brain lesions, before and after DMT interruption, were retrospectively evaluated. Potentially predictive baseline characteristics of disease reactivation were also analysed.

Results: N= 60 patients were included, median age and treatment duration were 47.8 (22.1-64.3) and 7.2 (0.5-17.8) years respectively. Median clinical follow-up after discontinuation was 4.6 (0.5-16.6) years. No disease rebound occurred. Mean annualized disease activity and relapse rate after discontinuation were both lower than during treatment(0.10±0.05 vs 0.15 ±0.05; p=0.017). A NEDA-3 period on treatment ≥5.5 years was associated with a low rate (7.7%) and a low risk of new disease activity (aHR 0.16, CI 0.03-0.78, p=0.024; Cox regression model multivariate analysis). The patients with NEDA-3 period threshold above 5.5 years showed a higher probability of surviving to disease reactivation than others (p=0.014).

Conclusion: In most of the MS patients who showed a long NEDA-3 period while on treatment remission of disease activity persists following first-line DMT discontinuation, suggesting that prolonged suppression of disease activity on treatment can determine long term sustained remission of the disease also in absence of treatment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.msard.2020.102591DOI Listing
January 2021

Prevalence of disability improvement as a potential outcome for multiple sclerosis trials.

Mult Scler 2021 04 26;27(5):706-711. Epub 2020 Jun 26.

Department of Health Sciences, University of Genova, Italy/IRCCS Ospedale Policlinico San Martino, Genova, Italy.

Background: The concept of improvement of disability recently emerged as a new target in multiple sclerosis (MS) studies since the approval of new potent drugs and for testing drugs for neuroprotection and repair.

Objective: To propose a simple estimator for assessing and comparing the prevalence of improvement over time between groups.

Methods: The prevalence of a transient condition takes into account the incidence and the duration of such condition. We propose here the application of a modified Kaplan-Meier estimator to evaluate and compare between groups the prevalence of improvement over time in a cohort of 121 patients treated with autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.

Results: The prevalence of improvement after 5 years from transplant was 50.3% (95%CI: [38.0-63.0]) in relapsing-remitting patients and 6.5% (95%CI: [0-17.8]) in secondary-progressive patients ( < 0.001). Such a difference wouldn't be evident considering the traditional cumulative probability of improvement at 5 years (55.5% in relapsing-remitting vs 33.4% in secondary-progressive patients,  = 0.10).

Conclusion: This study shows the relevance of a new estimator of prevalence of improvement in MS. This estimator gives simple information on whether a drug can induce a durable improvement in disability and can be considered a potential outcome for trials assessing drugs for neuroprotection or repair.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1352458520936236DOI Listing
April 2021

Long-term efficacy and safety of alemtuzumab in patients with RRMS: 12-year follow-up of CAMMS223.

J Neurol 2020 Nov 24;267(11):3343-3353. Epub 2020 Jun 24.

University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

Background: In the phase 2 CAMMS223 trial (NCT00050778), alemtuzumab significantly improved clinical and MRI outcomes versus subcutaneous interferon beta-1a over 3 years in treatment-naive patients with relapsing-remitting MS. Here, we assess efficacy and safety of alemtuzumab over 12 years in CAMMS223 patients who enrolled in the CAMMS03409 extension (NCT00930553), with available follow-up through the subsequent TOPAZ extension (NCT02255656).

Methods: In CAMMS223, patients received 2 alemtuzumab courses (12 mg/day; baseline: 5 days; 12 months later: 3 days); 22% received a third course. In the open-label, nonrandomized extensions, patients could receive as-needed additional alemtuzumab or other disease-modifying therapies.

Results: Of 108 alemtuzumab-treated patients in CAMMS223, 60 entered the CAMMS03409 extension; 33% received a total of 2 alemtuzumab courses, and 73% received no more than 3 courses through Year 12. Over 12 years, annualized relapse rate was 0.09, 71% of patients had stable or improved Expanded Disability Status Scale scores, and 69% were free of 6-month confirmed disability worsening. In Year 12, 73% of patients were free of MRI disease activity. Cumulatively throughout the extensions (Years 7-12), 34% of patients had no evidence of disease activity. Adverse event (AE) incidence declined through Year 12. Infusion-associated reactions peaked at first course and declined thereafter. Cumulative thyroid AE incidence was 50%; one immune thrombocytopenia event occurred, and there were no autoimmune nephropathy cases.

Conclusions: Alemtuzumab efficacy was maintained over 12 years in CAMMS223 patients, with 73% receiving no more than three courses. The safety profile in this cohort was consistent with other alemtuzumab clinical trials.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00415-020-09983-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7578137PMC
November 2020

Association of celiac disease in patients with multiple sclerosis in Tuscany.

Rev Esp Enferm Dig 2020 Jun;112(6):474-476

Clinical Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics , University of Siena.

Background and study purpose: to describe the comorbidity of celiac disease among a large cohort of multiple sclerosis patients in Tuscany.

Methods: the association of celiac disease among multiple sclerosis adult patients (n=2050) was retrospectively evaluated.

Results: 13 patients were diagnosed with celiac disease, the female:male ratio was 3.3:1 and the median age at diagnosis was 34.2 years (SD 13). Seventy-seven per cent of subjects complained about gastrointestinal symptoms. IgA anti- transglutaminase was positive in 85 % of cases and there was 70 % of villous atrophy.

Conclusions: the frequency of celiac disease among multiple sclerosis patients examined was lower than in the general population, 0.6 % vs 1 %)(p = 0.65).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.17235/reed.2020.6123/2018DOI Listing
June 2020

The TCR Repertoire Reconstitution in Multiple Sclerosis: Comparing One-Shot and Continuous Immunosuppressive Therapies.

Front Immunol 2020 9;11:559. Epub 2020 Apr 9.

Dipartimento di Medicina Sperimentale e Clinica (DMSC), University of Florence, Florence, Italy.

Natalizumab (NTZ) and autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT) are two successful treatments for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), an autoimmune T-cell-driven disorder affecting the central nervous system that is characterized by relapses interspersed with periods of complete or partial recovery. Both RRMS treatments have been documented to impact T-cell subpopulations and the T-cell receptor (TCR) repertoire in terms of clone frequency, but, so far, the link between T-cell naive and memory populations, autoimmunity, and treatment outcome has not yet been established hindering insight into the post-treatment TCR landscape of MS patients. To address this important knowledge gap, we tracked peripheral T-cell subpopulations (naïve and memory CD4+ and CD8+) across 15 RRMS patients before and after two years of continuous treatment (NTZ) and a single treatment course (AHSCT) by high-throughput TCRß sequencing. We found that the two MS treatments left treatment-specific multidimensional traces in patient TCRß repertoire dynamics with respect to clonal expansion, clonal diversity and repertoire architecture. Comparing MS TCR sequences with published datasets suggested that the majority of public TCRs belonged to virus-associated sequences. In summary, applying multi-dimensional computational immunology to a TCRß dataset of treated MS patients, we show that qualitative changes of TCRß repertoires encode treatment-specific information that may be relevant for future clinical trials monitoring and personalized MS follow-up, diagnosis and treatment regimes. Natalizumab (NTZ) and autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT) are two successful treatments for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), an autoimmune T-cell-driven disorder affecting the central nervous system that is characterized by relapses interspersed with periods of complete or partial recovery. Both RRMS treatments have been documented to impact T-cell subpopulations and the T-cell receptor (TCR) repertoire in terms of clone frequency, but, so far, the link between T-cell naive and memory populations, autoimmunity, and treatment outcome has not yet been established hindering insight into the posttreatment TCR landscape of MS patients. To address this important knowledge gap, we tracked peripheral T-cell subpopulations (naive and memory CD4+ and CD8+) across 15 RRMS patients before and after 2 years of continuous treatment (NTZ) and a single treatment course (AHSCT) by high-throughput TCRβ sequencing. We found that the two MS treatments left treatment-specific multidimensional traces in patient TCRβ repertoire dynamics with respect to clonal expansion, clonal diversity, and repertoire architecture. Comparing MS TCR sequences with published datasets suggested that the majority of public TCRs belonged to virus-associated sequences. In summary, applying multidimensional computational immunology to a TCRβ dataset of treated MS patients, we show that qualitative changes of TCRβ repertoires encode treatment-specific information that may be relevant for future clinical trials monitoring and personalized MS follow-up, diagnosis, and treatment regimens.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2020.00559DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7160336PMC
March 2021

Impact of autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation on disability and brain atrophy in secondary progressive multiple sclerosis.

Mult Scler 2021 01 3;27(1):61-70. Epub 2020 Feb 3.

Department of Neurology 2 and Multiple Sclerosis Regional Referral Centre, Careggi University Hospital, Florence, Italy.

Background: Autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (aHSCT) is a valuable option in aggressive relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS), but its efficacy in secondary progressive (SP)-MS is still controversial.

Objective: Assessing efficacy of aHSCT in SP-MS by clinical-radiological outcomes.

Methods: Open-label monocentric retrospective study enrolling consecutive SP-MS patients treated with BEAM-aHSCT in the period 1999-2016.

Results: In total, 26 SP-MS patients with moderate-severe disability were included. Progression-free survival (PFS) at years 5 and 10 after aHSCT were, respectively, 42% and 30%. Out of 16 patients who worsened, only 6 patients (23% overall) maintained continuous disability accrual (CDA), whereas 10 patients stabilized following one single-step Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) worsening. CDA-free survival was 74% at 5-10 years. No relapses or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) activity were reported, thus no evidence of disease activity (NEDA)-3 corresponded to PFS. Annualized rate of brain atrophy (AR-BVL) normalized after 1 year in 55% of the cases analysed (12/22).

Conclusion: BEAM-aHSCT halted CDA and normalized AR-BVL in most of the treated patients, inducing long-term remission of inflammatory activity at a median follow-up of 99 months (range 27-222). These data suggest that CDA might still be mainly driven by inflammation in a subgroup of SP-MS and could therefore be reversed by treatments. CDA should be analysed independently from any isolated disability worsening.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1352458520902392DOI Listing
January 2021

A case of recurrent progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy after human stem cell transplant, with detection of John Cunningham virus and human herpesvirus 6 on cerebrospinal fluid, treated with Mirtazapine, Olanzapine and Foscarnet.

Intractable Rare Dis Res 2019 Nov;8(4):275-278

Department of Neurological and Psychiatric sciences (NEUROFARBA), University of Florence, Florence, Italy.

We reported the case of a John Cunningham virus (JCV) and human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) mediated progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) after human stem cell transplant, reactivated 6 months later in absence of immunosuppressive therapy, successfully treated with anti-5HT2A receptors agents and antiviral therapy. Few cases of JCV and HHV-6 coinfection associated PML are described in literature and the role of HHV-6 in the pathogenesis and prognosis of PML is not completely clear. Our case suggests that, in a possible PML, the research of HHV-6 and JCV should be always performed on cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and on blood samples and in case of detection of HHV-6 DNA a chromosomally integrated human herpesvirus 6(ciHHV-6) should be excluded. Furthermore we recommend to start an appropriate therapy with antiviral and anti-5HT2A receptors agents in case of possible PML due to JCV and HHV-6 coinfection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.5582/irdr.2019.01107DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6929596PMC
November 2019

The "central vein sign" in patients with diagnostic "red flags" for multiple sclerosis: A prospective multicenter 3T study.

Mult Scler 2020 04 19;26(4):421-432. Epub 2019 Sep 19.

Department of Neurology, Center of Clinical Neurosciences, Lausanne University Hospital, Lausanne, Switzerland.

Background: The central vein sign (CVS) has been shown to help in the differential diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS), but most prior studies are retrospective.

Objectives: To prospectively assess the diagnostic predictive value of the CVS in diagnostically difficult cases.

Methods: In this prospective multicenter study, 51 patients with suspected MS who had clinical, imaging, or laboratory "red flags" (i.e. features atypical for MS) underwent 3T fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR*) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for CVS assessment. After the diagnostic work-up, expert clinicians blinded to the results of the CVS assessment came to a clinical diagnosis. The value of the CVS to prospectively predict an MS diagnosis was assessed.

Results: Of the 39 patients who received a clinical diagnosis by the end of the study, 27 had MS and 12 received a non-MS diagnosis that included systemic lupus erythematosus, sarcoidosis, migraine, Sjögren disease, SPG4-spastic-paraparesis, neuromyelitis optica, and Susac syndrome. The percentage of perivenular lesions was higher in MS (median = 86%) compared to non-MS (median = 21%;  < 0.0001) patients. A 40% perivenular lesion cutoff was associated with 97% accuracy and a 96% positive/100% negative predictive value.

Conclusion: The CVS detected on 3T FLAIR* images can accurately predict an MS diagnosis in patients suspected to have MS, but with atypical clinical, laboratory, and imaging features.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1352458519876031DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7080603PMC
April 2020

Next Generation Molecular Diagnosis of Hereditary Spastic Paraplegias: An Italian Cross-Sectional Study.

Front Neurol 2018 4;9:981. Epub 2018 Dec 4.

Department of Neurosciences, Rehabilitation, Ophthalmology, Genetics, Maternal and Child Health, Section of Medical Genetics, University of Genoa, Genoa, Italy.

Hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP) refers to a group of genetically heterogeneous neurodegenerative motor neuron disorders characterized by progressive age-dependent loss of corticospinal motor tract function, lower limb spasticity, and weakness. Recent clinical use of next generation sequencing (NGS) methodologies suggests that they facilitate the diagnostic approach to HSP, but the power of NGS as a first-tier diagnostic procedure is unclear. The larger-than-expected genetic heterogeneity-there are over 80 potential disease-associated genes-and frequent overlap with other clinical conditions affecting the motor system make a molecular diagnosis in HSP cumbersome and time consuming. In a single-center, cross-sectional study, spanning 4 years, 239 subjects with a clinical diagnosis of HSP underwent molecular screening of a large set of genes, using two different customized NGS panels. The latest version of our targeted sequencing panel () comprises 118 genes known to be associated with HSP. Using an in-house validated bioinformatics pipeline and several tools to predict mutation pathogenicity, we obtained a positive diagnostic yield of 29% (70/239), whereas variants of unknown significance (VUS) were found in 86 patients (36%), and 83 cases remained unsolved. This study is among the largest screenings of consecutive HSP index cases enrolled in real-life clinical-diagnostic settings. Its results corroborate NGS as a modern, first-step procedure for molecular diagnosis of HSP. It also disclosed a significant number of new mutations in ultra-rare genes, expanding the clinical spectrum, and genetic landscape of HSP, at least in Italy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2018.00981DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6289125PMC
December 2018

Predictors of response to opicinumab in acute optic neuritis.

Ann Clin Transl Neurol 2018 Oct 15;5(10):1154-1162. Epub 2018 Aug 15.

Biogen Cambridge Massachusetts.

Objective: The objective of this study was to evaluate prespecified and post hoc analyses in RENEW subgroups to identify participants more likely to benefit from opicinumab.

Methods: RENEW assessed the efficacy/safety of opicinumab versus placebo in participants with a first unilateral acute optic neuritis (AON) episode. Difference in visual evoked potential (VEP) latency of the affected eye at 24 weeks versus the fellow eye at baseline was the primary endpoint. Interactions between the primary endpoint and prespecified baseline variables (including age, timing of treatment initiation, and visual impairment) using the median as cut-off were evaluated in the per protocol population using analysis of covariance (ANCOVA); subgroups based on preexisting brain T2 lesion volume were also analyzed. Interactions between the primary endpoint and retinal ganglion cell layer/inner plexiform layer (RGCL/IPL) and retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) thickness were assessed post hoc as was weight gain by treatment.

Results: Treatment benefit of opicinumab (=33) over placebo (=36) on the primary endpoint was greatest in participants older than the median age at baseline (≥33 years); the difference versus placebo for baseline age ≥33 years was -14.17 msec [=0.01] versus -0.89 msec for baseline age <33 years, [=0.87]). Post hoc analysis showed that VEP latency recovery was significantly associated with less RGCL/IPL thinning (=0.0164), occurring early on.

Interpretation: Age was the strongest prespecified baseline characteristic associated with a treatment effect of opicinumab. A strong association between VEP latency recovery at week 24 and early RGCL/IPL preservation was observed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/acn3.620DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6186935PMC
October 2018

Central vein sign differentiates Multiple Sclerosis from central nervous system inflammatory vasculopathies.

Ann Neurol 2018 02 15;83(2):283-294. Epub 2018 Feb 15.

Department of Neuroscience, Drug and Child Health, University of Florence, Florence, Italy.

Objectives: In multiple sclerosis (MS), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a sensitive tool for detecting white matter lesions, but its diagnostic specificity is still suboptimal; ambiguous cases are frequent in clinical practice. Detection of perivenular lesions in the brain (the "central vein sign") improves the pathological specificity of MS diagnosis, but comprehensive evaluation of this MRI biomarker in MS-mimicking inflammatory and/or autoimmune diseases, such as central nervous system (CNS) inflammatory vasculopathies, is lacking. In a multicenter study, we assessed the frequency of perivenular lesions in MS versus systemic autoimmune diseases with CNS involvement and primary angiitis of the CNS (PACNS).

Methods: In 31 patients with inflammatory CNS vasculopathies and 52 with relapsing-remitting MS, 3-dimensional T2*-weighted and T2-fluid-attenuated inversion recovery images were obtained during a single MRI acquisition after gadolinium injection. For each lesion, the central vein sign was evaluated according to consensus guidelines. For each patient, lesion count, volume, and brain location, as well as fulfillment of dissemination in space MRI criteria, were assessed.

Results: MS showed higher frequency of perivenular lesions (median = 88%) than did inflammatory CNS vasculopathies (14%), without overlap between groups or differences between 3T and 1.5T MRI. Among inflammatory vasculopathies, Behçet disease showed the highest median frequency of perivenular lesions (34%), followed by PACNS (14%), antiphospholipid syndromes (12%), Sjögren syndrome (11%), and systemic lupus erythematosus (0%). When a threshold of 50% perivenular lesions was applied, central vein sign discriminated MS from inflammatory vasculopathies with a diagnostic accuracy of 100%.

Interpretation: The central vein sign differentiates inflammatory CNS vasculopathies from MS at standard clinical magnetic field strengths. Ann Neurol 2018;83:283-294.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ana.25146DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5901412PMC
February 2018

Efficacy and Safety of Extracranial Vein Angioplasty in Multiple Sclerosis: A Randomized Clinical Trial.

JAMA Neurol 2018 01;75(1):35-43

Scientific Director's Office, Carlo Besta Foundation and Neurological Institute, Milan, Italy.

Importance: Chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI) is characterized by restricted venous outflow from the brain and spinal cord. Whether this condition is associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) and whether venous percutaneous transluminal angioplasty (PTA) is beneficial in persons with MS and CCSVI is controversial.

Objective: To determine the efficacy and safety of venous PTA in patients with MS and CCSVI.

Design, Setting, And Participants: We analyzed 177 patients with relapsing-remitting MS; 62 were ineligible, including 47 (26.6%) who did not have CCSVI on color Doppler ultrasonography screening. A total of 115 patients were recruited in the study timeframe. All patients underwent a randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled, parallel-group trial in 6 MS centers in Italy. The trial began in August 2012 and concluded in March 2016; data were analyzed from April 2016 to September 2016. The analysis was intention to treat.

Interventions: Patients were randomly allocated (2:1) to either venous PTA or catheter venography without venous angioplasty (sham).

Main Outcomes And Measures: Two primary end points were assessed at 12 months: (1) a composite functional measure (ie, walking control, balance, manual dexterity, postvoid residual urine volume, and visual acuity) and (2) a measure of new combined brain lesions on magnetic resonance imaging, including the proportion of lesion-free patients. Combined lesions included T1 gadolinium-enhancing lesions plus new or enlarged T2 lesions.

Results: Of the included 115 patients with relapsing-remitting MS, 76 were allocated to the PTA group (45 female [59%]; mean [SD] age, 40.0 [10.3] years) and 39 to the sham group (29 female [74%]; mean [SD] age, 37.5 [10.6] years); 112 (97.4%) completed follow-up. No serious adverse events occurred. Flow restoration was achieved in 38 of 71 patients (54%) in the PTA group. The functional composite measure did not differ between the PTA and sham groups (41.7% vs 48.7%; odds ratio, 0.75; 95% CI, 0.34-1.68; P = .49). The mean (SD) number of combined lesions on magnetic resonance imaging at 6 to 12 months were 0.47 (1.19) in the PTA group vs 1.27 (2.65) in the sham group (mean ratio, 0.37; 95% CI, 0.15-0.91; P = .03: adjusted P = .09) and were 1.40 (4.21) in the PTA group vs 1.95 (3.73) in the sham group at 0 to 12 months (mean ratio, 0.72; 95% CI, 0.32-1.63; P = .45; adjusted P = .45). At follow-up after 6 to 12 months, 58 of 70 patients (83%) in the PTA group and 22 of 33 (67%) in the sham group were free of new lesions on magnetic resonance imaging (odds ratio, 2.64; 95% CI, 1.11-6.28; P = .03; adjusted P = .09). At 0 to 12 months, 46 of 73 patients (63.0%) in the PTA group and 18 of 37 (49%) in the sham group were free of new lesions on magnetic resonance imaging (odds ratio, 1.80; 95% CI, 0.81-4.01; P = .15; adjusted P = .30).

Conclusion And Relevance: Venous PTA has proven to be a safe but largely ineffective technique; the treatment cannot be recommended in patients with MS.

Trial Registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT01371760.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamaneurol.2017.3825DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5833494PMC
January 2018

Diagnostics of the neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders (NMOSD).

Neurol Sci 2017 Oct;38(Suppl 2):231-236

AUO S. Luigi, Orbassano, Italy.

This document presents the guidelines for anti-aquaporin-4 (AQP4) antibody testing that has been developed following a consensus process built on questionnaire-based surveys, internet contacts, and discussions at workshops of the sponsoring Italian Association of Neuroimmunology (AINI) congresses. Essential clinical information on neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders, indications and limits of anti-AQP4 antibody testing, instructions for result interpretation, and an agreed laboratory protocol (Appendix) are reported for the communicative community of neurologists and clinical pathologists.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10072-017-3027-1DOI Listing
October 2017

Disease reactivation following fingolimod withdrawal in multiple sclerosis: Two case reports.

Mult Scler Relat Disord 2017 Jul 3;15:24-26. Epub 2017 May 3.

Azienda Ospedaliero Universitaria Careggi, Dipartimento di Neuroscienze, Area del farmaco e Salute del bambino (NEUROFARBA), Largo Brambilla n 3, 50139 Florence, Italy. Electronic address:

Background: Severe multiple sclerosis reactivation following second line treatment withdrawal, defined "rebound syndrome", is becoming a prominent issue to consider when deciding to discontinue a treatment. In particular disease recurrence after cessation of fingolimod is actually poorly characterized as to date, only case reports and small case series have been described.

Case Presentation: We herewith describe 2 cases of severe disease reactivation associated to a high number of brain gadolinium enhancing lesions at magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) despite high dose steroid treatment, observed a few weeks after cessation of fingolimod administration, causing a substantial and persistent worsening of patient disability that required long term hospitalization. The severity of the neurological symptom worsening and of the brain lesion largely exceeded the disease activity observed during treatment.

Conclusions: Our patients developed a rebound syndrome after ceasing fingolimod treatment, defined as the development of severe neurological symptoms and multiple new or enhancing lesions exceeding previous activity. Further analysis are needed to identify patients at greatest risk of a rebound syndrome.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.msard.2017.05.003DOI Listing
July 2017

Long-term Outcomes After Autologous Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation for Multiple Sclerosis.

JAMA Neurol 2017 Apr;74(4):459-469

Haematology Department, Careggi University Hospital, Firenze, Italy.

Importance: Autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT) may be effective in aggressive forms of multiple sclerosis (MS) that fail to respond to standard therapies.

Objective: To evaluate the long-term outcomes in patients who underwent AHSCT for the treatment of MS in a large multicenter cohort.

Design, Setting, And Participants: Data were obtained in a multicenter, observational, retrospective cohort study. Eligibility criteria were receipt of AHSCT for the treatment of MS between January 1995 and December 2006 and the availability of a prespecified minimum data set comprising the disease subtype at baseline; the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) score at baseline; information on the administered conditioning regimen and graft manipulation; and at least 1 follow-up visit or report after transplant. The last patient visit was on July 1, 2012. To avoid bias, all eligible patients were included in the analysis regardless of their duration of follow-up. Data analysis was conducted from September 1, 2014 to April 27, 2015.

Exposures: Demographic, disease-related, and treatment-related exposures were considered variables of interest, including age, disease subtype, baseline EDSS score, number of previous disease-modifying treatments, and intensity of the conditioning regimen.

Main Outcomes And Measures: The primary outcomes were MS progression-free survival and overall survival. The probabilities of progression-free survival and overall survival were calculated using Kaplan-Meier survival curves and multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression analysis models.

Results: Valid data were obtained from 25 centers in 13 countries for 281 evaluable patients, with median follow-up of 6.6 years (range, 0.2-16 years). Seventy-eight percent (218 of 281) of patients had progressive forms of MS. The median EDSS score before mobilization of peripheral blood stem cells was 6.5 (range, 1.5-9). Eight deaths (2.8%; 95% CI, 1.0%-4.9%) were reported within 100 days of transplant and were considered transplant-related mortality. The 5-year probability of progression-free survival as assessed by the EDSS score was 46% (95% CI, 42%-54%), and overall survival was 93% (95% CI, 89%-96%) at 5 years. Factors associated with neurological progression after transplant were older age (hazard ratio [HR], 1.03; 95% CI, 1.00-1.05), progressive vs relapsing form of MS (HR, 2.33; 95% CI, 1.27-4.28), and more than 2 previous disease-modifying therapies (HR, 1.65; 95% CI, 1.10-2.47). Higher baseline EDSS score was associated with worse overall survival (HR, 2.03; 95% CI, 1.40-2.95).

Conclusions And Relevance: In this observational study of patients with MS treated with AHSCT, almost half of them remained free from neurological progression for 5 years after transplant. Younger age, relapsing form of MS, fewer prior immunotherapies, and lower baseline EDSS score were factors associated with better outcomes. The results support the rationale for further randomized clinical trials of AHSCT for the treatment of MS.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamaneurol.2016.5867DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5744858PMC
April 2017

Safety and efficacy of opicinumab in acute optic neuritis (RENEW): a randomised, placebo-controlled, phase 2 trial.

Lancet Neurol 2017 Mar 15;16(3):189-199. Epub 2017 Feb 15.

Biogen, Cambridge, MA, USA.

Background: The human monoclonal antibody opicinumab (BIIB033, anti-LINGO-1) has shown remyelinating activity in preclinical studies. We therefore assessed the safety and tolerability, and efficacy of opicinumab given soon after a first acute optic neuritis episode.

Methods: This randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 2 study (RENEW) was done at 33 sites in Australia, Canada, and Europe in participants (aged 18-55 years) with a first unilateral acute optic neuritis episode within 28 days from study baseline. After treatment with high-dose methylprednisolone (1 g/day, intravenously, for 3-5 days), participants were assigned with a computer-generated sequence with permuted block randomisation (1:1) using a centralised interactive voice and web response system to receive 100 mg/kg opicinumab intravenously or placebo once every 4 weeks (six doses) and followed up to week 32. All study participants and all study staff, including the central readers, were masked to treatment assignment apart from the pharmacist responsible for preparing the study treatments and the pharmacy monitor at each site. The primary endpoint was remyelination at 24 weeks, measured as recovery of affected optic nerve conduction latency using full-field visual evoked potential (FF-VEP) versus the unaffected fellow eye at baseline. Analysis was by intention-to-treat (ITT); prespecified per-protocol (PP) analyses were also done. This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01721161.

Findings: The study was done between Dec 21, 2012, and Oct 21, 2014. 82 participants were enrolled, and 41 in each group comprised the ITT population; 33 participants received opicinumab and 36 received placebo in the PP population. Adjusted mean treatment difference of opicinumab versus placebo was -3·5 ms (17·3 vs 20·8 [95% CI -10·6 to 3·7]; 17%; p=0·33) in the ITT population, and -7·6 ms in the PP population (14·7 vs 22·2 [-15·1 to 0·0]; 34%; p=0·050) at week 24 and -6·1 ms (15·1 vs 21·2 [-12·7 to 0·5]; 29%; p=0·071) in the ITT population and -9·1 ms (13·2 vs 22·4 [-16·1 to -2·1]; 41%; p=0·011) in the PP population at week 32. The overall incidence (34 [83%] of 41 in each group) and severity of adverse events (two [5%] of 41 severe adverse events with placebo vs three [7%] of 41 with opicinumab) were similar between groups and no significant effects on brain MRI measures were noted in either group (mean T2 lesion volume change, 0·05 mL [SD 0·21] for placebo vs 0·20 mL [0·52] with opicinumab; 27 [77%] of 35 participants with no change in gadolinium-enhancing [Gd+] lesion number with opicinumab vs 27 [79%] of 34 with placebo; mean 0·4 [SD 0·79 for the placebo group and 0·85 for the opicinumab group] new Gd+ lesions per participant in both groups). Treatment-related serious adverse events were reported in three (7%) of 41 participants in the opicinumab group (hypersensitivity [n=2], asymptomatic increase in transaminase concentrations [n=1]) and none of the participants in the placebo group.

Interpretation: Remyelination did not differ significantly between the opicinumab and placebo groups in the ITT population at week 24. However, results from the prespecified PP population suggest that enhancing remyelination in the human CNS with opicinumab might be possible and warrant further clinical investigation.

Funding: Biogen.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1474-4422(16)30377-5DOI Listing
March 2017

The central vein sign and its clinical evaluation for the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis: a consensus statement from the North American Imaging in Multiple Sclerosis Cooperative.

Nat Rev Neurol 2016 12 11;12(12):714-722. Epub 2016 Nov 11.

Translational Neuroradiology Section, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH, 10 Center Drive MSC 1400, Building 10 Room 5C103, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.

Over the past few years, MRI has become an indispensable tool for diagnosing multiple sclerosis (MS). However, the current MRI criteria for MS diagnosis have imperfect sensitivity and specificity. The central vein sign (CVS) has recently been proposed as a novel MRI biomarker to improve the accuracy and speed of MS diagnosis. Evidence indicates that the presence of the CVS in individual lesions can accurately differentiate MS from other diseases that mimic this condition. However, the predictive value of the CVS for the development of clinical MS in patients with suspected demyelinating disease is still unknown. Moreover, the lack of standardization for the definition and imaging of the CVS currently limits its clinical implementation and validation. On the basis of a thorough review of the existing literature on the CVS and the consensus opinion of the members of the North American Imaging in Multiple Sclerosis (NAIMS) Cooperative, this article provides statements and recommendations aimed at helping radiologists and neurologists to better understand, refine, standardize and evaluate the CVS in the diagnosis of MS.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nrneurol.2016.166DOI Listing
December 2016

Magnetic resonance imaging of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis in the common marmoset.

J Neuroimmunol 2017 03 8;304:86-92. Epub 2016 Oct 8.

Department of Neurosciences, Drug Research, and Child Health, University of Florence, Florence, Italy.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an invaluable tool for the diagnosis and monitoring of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) as well as for the study of the disease pathophysiology. Because of its strong clinical, radiological and histopathological similarities with the human disease, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in the common marmoset has been studied more intensively over the past several years. Here, we review the current knowledge on MRI in the marmoset EAE, and we outline the physiopathological significance and translational values of these studies with respect to MS. Accumulating evidences suggest that the application of conventional, as well as non-conventional, MRI techniques in the marmoset EAE is a promising approach to elucidate the pathological processes underlying the development of inflammatory demyelinated lesions in the central nervous system, potentially improving the identification and development of new therapeutics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jneuroim.2016.09.016DOI Listing
March 2017

Proposal for a New Score-Based Approach To Improve Efficiency of Diagnostic Laboratory Workflow for Acute Bacterial Meningitis in Adults.

J Clin Microbiol 2016 07 11;54(7):1851-1854. Epub 2016 May 11.

Department of Experimental and Clinical Medicine, University of Florence, Florence, Italy

Microbiological tests on cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) utilize a common urgent-care procedure that does not take into account the chemical and cytological characteristics of the CSF, resulting sometimes in an unnecessary use of human and diagnostic resources. The aim of this study was to retrospectively validate a simple scoring system (bacterial meningitis-Careggi score [BM-CASCO]) based on blood and CSF sample chemical/cytological parameters for evaluating the probability of acute bacterial meningitis (ABM) in adults. BM-CASCO (range, 0 to 6) was defined by the following parameters: CSF cell count, CSF protein levels, CSF lactate levels, CSF glucose-to-serum glucose ratio, and peripheral neutrophil count. BM-CASCO was retrospectively calculated for 784 cases of suspected ABM in adult subjects observed during a four-and-a-half-year-period (2010 to 2014) at the emergency department (ED) of a large tertiary-care teaching hospital in Italy. Among the 28 confirmed ABM cases (3.5%), Streptococcus pneumoniae was the most frequent cause (16 cases). All ABM cases showed a BM-CASCO value of ≥3. Most negative cases (591/756) exhibited a BM-CASCO value of ≤1, which was adopted in our laboratory as a cutoff to not proceed with urgent microbiological analysis of CSF in cases of suspected ABM in adults. During a subsequent 1-year follow-up, the introduction of the BM-CASCO in the diagnostic workflow of ABM in adults resulted in a significant decrease in unnecessary microbiological analysis, with no false negatives. In conclusion, BM-CASCO appears to be an accurate and simple scoring system for optimization of the microbiological diagnostic workflow of ABM in adults.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/JCM.00149-16DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4922106PMC
July 2016

SWI enhances vein detection using gadolinium in multiple sclerosis.

Acta Radiol Open 2015 Mar 18;4(3):2047981614560938. Epub 2015 Mar 18.

Department of Neurosciences, Drug Research, and Child's Health, University of Florence, Florence, Italy.

Susceptibility weighted imaging (SWI) combined with the FLAIR sequence provides the ability to depict in vivo the perivenous location of inflammatory demyelinating lesions - one of the most specific pathologic features of multiple sclerosis (MS). In addition, in MS white matter (WM) lesions, gadolinium-based contrast media (CM) can increase vein signal loss on SWI. This report focuses on two cases of WM inflammatory lesions enhancing on SWI images after CM injection. In these lesions in fact the CM increased the contrast between the parenchyma and the central vein allowing as well, in one of the two cases, the detection of a vein not visible on the same SWI sequence acquired before CM injection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/2047981614560938DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4372566PMC
March 2015

Detection of JCPyV microRNA in blood and urine samples of multiple sclerosis patients under natalizumab therapy.

J Neurovirol 2015 Dec 13;21(6):666-70. Epub 2015 Feb 13.

Department of Experimental and Clinical Medicine, University of Florence, Viale Morgagni 48, 50134, Florence, Italy.

Polyomavirus JC (JCPyV) reactivation and development of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy is a health concern in multiple sclerosis patients under natalizumab therapy. Here, the JCPyV microRNA-J1-3p and microRNA-J1-5p expressions and genomic variability were investigated in blood and urine samples of multiple sclerosis patients before and under natalizumab therapy and in healthy controls. The two JCPyV microRNAs were detected in the JCPyV-DNA-positive peripheral blood mononuclear cell samples and in the exosomes derived from plasma and urine obtained from JCPyV-DNA-positive and JCPyV-DNA-negative patients. In particular, the increased JCPyV microRNA expression in samples of multiple sclerosis patients under natalizumab therapy was consistent with the high JCPyV-DNA positivity observed in these samples. Moreover, JCPyV microRNA genomic region showed few nucleotide differences in samples obtained from blood and urine of multiple sclerosis patients and healthy controls. Overall, these data suggest a potential role of the JCPyV microRNA expression in counteracting the viral reactivation to maintain JCPyV asymptomatic persistence in the host.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13365-015-0325-3DOI Listing
December 2015

Autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in multiple sclerosis: a phase II trial.

Neurology 2015 Mar 11;84(10):981-8. Epub 2015 Feb 11.

From the MRI Center for Neurological Diseases (L.R.), Department of Neuroscience, Rehabilitation, Ophthalmology, Genetics, and Maternal and Child Health (G.L.M., D.C.), and the Biostatistic Unit, Department of Health Sciences (M.P.S., L.R.), University of Genova; the Bone Marrow Transplantation Unit (F.G.), S. Martino Hospital, Genova, Italy; the Service of Neurology (A.S.) and the Hematology Department (E.C.), Institut d'Investigacions Biomèdiques Agustí Pi i Sunyer, Hospital Clínic, University of Barcelona, Spain; the Department of Neurosciences (E.M.) and the Bone Marrow Transplantation Unit, Department of Hematology and Oncology (A.D.), University of Modena and Reggio Emilia; the MS Center, Department of Neuroscience, Imaging and Clinical Sciences (A.L.), University Gabriele D'Annunzio, Chieti-Pescara; the Bone Marrow Transplant Center, Department of Hematology (P.D.B.), Spirito Santo Hospital, Pescara; the Multiple Sclerosis Unit Ospedale Papa Giovanni XXIII (M.R.R.), Bergamo; the Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplant Unit Azienda Ospedaliera Papa Giovanni XXIII (A.R.), Bergamo; Division Neurology 1 (M.P.A.) and Division Neurology 2, Drug and Child Health (L.M., L.V.), Department of Neurosciences, and Bone Marrow Transplantation Unit (M.D.G., R.S.), Careggi University Hospital, University of Firenze; the Neuroimaging Research Unit (M.F.), Institute of Experimental Neurology, Division of Neuroscience, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Milan; the Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences (U.A.), Magna Graecia University of Catanzaro; the Advanced Cellular Therapy Center IRCCS "Istituto Tumori Giovanni Paolo II" Bari (P.I.), Italy; and the Internal Medicine and Vascular Disease Unit (D.F.), Assistance Publique Hospitaux de Paris (AP-HP) INSERM U 796, Paris 7 University, Saint-Louis Hospital, Paris, France.

Objective: To assess in multiple sclerosis (MS) the effect of intense immunosuppression followed by autologous hematopoietic stem cells transplantation (AHSCT) vs mitoxantrone (MTX) on disease activity measured by MRI.

Methods: We conducted a multicenter, phase II, randomized trial including patients with secondary progressive or relapsing-remitting MS, with a documented increase in the last year on the Expanded Disability Status Scale, in spite of conventional therapy, and presence of one or more gadolinium-enhancing (Gd+) areas. Patients were randomized to receive intense immunosuppression (mobilization with cyclophosphamide and filgrastim, conditioning with carmustine, cytosine-arabinoside, etoposide, melphalan, and anti-thymocyte globulin) followed by AHSCT or MTX 20 mg every month for 6 months. The primary endpoint was the cumulative number of new T2 lesions in the 4 years following randomization. Secondary endpoints were the cumulative number of Gd+ lesions, relapse rate, and disability progression. Safety and tolerability were also assessed. Twenty-one patients were randomized and 17 had postbaseline evaluable MRI scans.

Results: AHSCT reduced by 79% the number of new T2 lesions as compared to MTX (rate ratio 0.21, p = 0.00016). It also reduced Gd+ lesions as well as the annualized relapse rate. No difference was found in the progression of disability.

Conclusion: Intense immunosuppression followed by AHSCT is significantly superior to MTX in reducing MRI activity in severe cases of MS. These results strongly support further phase III studies with primary clinical endpoints. The study was registered as EUDRACT No. 2007-000064-24.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0000000000001329DOI Listing
March 2015

Markers of JC virus infection in patients with multiple sclerosis under natalizumab therapy.

Neurol Neuroimmunol Neuroinflamm 2015 Feb 14;2(1):e58. Epub 2015 Jan 14.

Department of Experimental and Clinical Medicine (V.C., S.G., F.M., A.A.) and Department of Neurosciences, Drugs and Child Health (E.M., L.M.), University of Florence; and Neurology 2 Division (A.R., C.M., L.M.), Careggi University Hospital, Florence, Italy.

Objective: To evaluate the frequency of JC polyomavirus (JCPyV) infection and anti-JCPyV antibodies in patients with multiple sclerosis under natalizumab therapy.

Methods: Presence of anti-JCPyV antibodies and JCPyV DNA was analyzed in 39 patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis undergoing natalizumab therapy. Anti-JCPyV antibodies were evaluated in serum by a 2-step virus-like particle-based ELISA assay (Stratify), and JCPyV DNA was evaluated in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, plasma, and urine by quantitative PCR. The anti-JCPyV antibodies were evaluated in serum samples collected at the same time or later than those collected for DNA analysis.

Results: JCPyV DNA was detected in 59% of patients, and anti-JCPyV antibodies were present in 67%. JCPyV DNA occurred more often in blood than in urine. Anti-JCPyV antibodies were observed in 70% of the JCPyV-infected patients, and JCPyV DNA was detected in 50% of the patients without anti-JCPyV antibodies. When JCPyV DNA was investigated in blood and urine the frequency of infection was higher than previously described.

Conclusion: Under these experimental conditions, with respect to the observed frequency of JCPyV infection, the sensitivity of the anti-JCPyV antibody assay was lower than expected.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1212/NXI.0000000000000058DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4299884PMC
February 2015

Increased CXCL10 expression in MS MSCs and monocytes is unaffected by AHSCT.

Ann Clin Transl Neurol 2014 Sep 29;1(9):650-8. Epub 2014 Aug 29.

Dept. NEUROFARBA, University of Florence Florence, Italy.

Objective: To confirm CXCL10 over production in bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and circulating monocytes isolated from multiple sclerosis patients (MS) and identify predate cell molecular signature; to extend this analysis after autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT) to test if therapy has modifying effects on MSCs and circulating monocytes.

Methods: MSCs and monocytes were isolated from 19 MS patients who undergone AHSCT before and seven of them at least 3 years after transplant. CXCL10 production was detected after LPS/IFN-γ stimulation. TLR4 signaling pathways were investigated by means of transcription factors phosphorylation/activation level. RT-PCR of activated transcription factors was performed to quantify their expression. All experiments were conducted in parallel with 24 matched healthy donors (HD).

Results: CXCL10 expression was significantly increased in both peripheral circulating monocytes and BM MSCs compared to HD. We showed that CXCL10 production is determined by an altered signaling pathway downstream TLR4, with the involvement of STAT-1, NF-κB, p38, JNK, and CREB. All upregulated transcription factors are more phosphorylated in MS patient sample. These features are not modified after AHSCT.

Interpretation: We demonstrated that in MS two different cell lineages are characterized by significantly increased production of CXCL10, due to altered signaling pathways of innate immune reaction mediated by TLR4, probably associated with disease phenotype. This characteristic is not modified by AHSCT, suggesting that when T and B lymphocytes are reset, other possible components of MS pathology, such as CXCL10 over production, do not determine therapy outcome.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/acn3.92DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4241792PMC
September 2014
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