Publications by authors named "Marco Pezzullo"

12 Publications

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Identification of neuroblastoma cell lines with uncommon TAZ/mesenchymal stromal cell phenotype with strong suppressive activity on natural killer cells.

J Immunother Cancer 2021 Jan;9(1)

Immunology Area, Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital, IRCCS, Rome, Italy

Background: Neuroblastoma (NB) is the most common, extracranial childhood solid tumor arising from neural crest progenitor cells and is a primary cause of death in pediatric patients. In solid tumors, stromal elements recruited or generated by the cancer cells favor the development of an immune-suppressive microenvironment. Herein, we investigated in NB cell lines and in NB biopsies, the presence of cancer cells with mesenchymal phenotype and determined the immune-suppressive properties of these tumor cells on natural killer (NK) cells.

Methods: We assessed the mesenchymal stromal cell (MSC)-like phenotype and function of five human NB cell lines and the presence of this particular subset of neuroblasts in NB biopsies using flow-cytometry, immunohistochemistry, RT-qPCR, cytotoxicity assays, western blot and silencing strategy. We corroborated our data consulting a public gene-expression dataset.

Results: Two NB cell lines, SK-N-AS and SK-N-BE(2)C, exhibited an unprecedented MSC phenotype (CD105/CD90/CD73/CD29/CD146/GD2/TAZ). In these NB-MSCs, the ectoenzyme CD73 and the oncogenic/immune-regulatory transcriptional coactivator TAZ were peculiar markers. Their MSC-like nature was confirmed by their adipogenic and osteogenic differentiation potential. Immunohistochemical analysis confirmed the presence of neuroblasts with MSC phenotype (CD105/CD73/TAZ). Moreover, a public gene-expression dataset revealed that, in stage IV NB, a higher expression of TAZ and CD105 strongly correlated with a poorer outcome.Among the NB-cell lines analyzed, only NB-MSCs exhibited multifactorial resistance to NK-mediated lysis, inhibition of activating NK receptors, signal adaptors and of NK-cell cytotoxicity through cell-cell contact mediated mechanisms. The latter property was controlled partially by TAZ, since its silencing in NB cells efficiently rescued NK-cell cytotoxic activity, while its overexpression induced opposite effects in non-NB-MSC cells.

Conclusions: We identified a novel NB immunoregulatory subset that: (i) displayed phenotypic and functional properties of MSC, (ii) mediated multifactorial resistance to NK-cell-induced killing and (iii) efficiently inhibited, in coculture, the cytotoxic activity of NK cells against target cells through a TAZ-dependent mechanism. These findings indicate that targeting novel cellular and molecular components may disrupt the immunomodulatory milieu of the NB microenvironment ameliorating the response to conventional treatments as well as to advanced immunotherapeutic approaches, including adoptive transfer of NK cells and chimeric antigen receptor T or NK cells.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jitc-2020-001313DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7813384PMC
January 2021

Upfront treatment with mTOR inhibitor everolimus in pediatric low-grade gliomas: A single-center experience.

Int J Cancer 2020 Dec 15. Epub 2020 Dec 15.

Department of Paediatric Haematology/Oncology, Cell and Gene Therapy, Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital, IRCCS, Rome, Italy.

Pediatric low-grade gliomas (pLGGs) are the most frequent brain tumor in children. Adjuvant treatment, consisting in chemotherapy and radiotherapy, is often necessary if a complete surgical resection cannot be obtained. Traditional treatment approaches result in a significant long-term morbidity, with a detrimental impact on quality of life. Dysregulation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway is the molecular hallmark of pLGGs and hyperactivation of the downstream mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway is frequently observed. We report clinical and radiological results of front-line treatment with everolimus in 10 consecutive patients diagnosed with m-TOR positive pLGGs at the Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital in Rome, Italy. Median duration of treatment was 19 months (range from 13-60). Brain magnetic resonance imaging showed stable disease in 7 patients, partial response in 1 and disease progression in 2. Therapy-related adverse events were always reversible after dose reduction or temporary treatment interruption. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of everolimus treatment for chemo- and radiotherapy-naïve children with pLGG. Our results provide preliminary support, despite low sample size, for the use of everolimus as target therapy in pLGG showing lack of progression with a manageable toxicity profile.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ijc.33438DOI Listing
December 2020

CD28.OX40 co-stimulatory combination is associated with long in vivo persistence and high activity of CAR.CD30 T-cells.

Haematologica 2021 Apr 1;106(4):987-999. Epub 2021 Apr 1.

Dept Onco-Haematology, Cell and Gene Therapy, Bambino Gesù Children Hospital, Rome, Italy.

The prognosis of many patients with chemotherapy-refractory or multiply relapsed CD30+ non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) or Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) still remains poor, and novel therapeutic approaches are warranted to address this unmet clinical need. In light of this consideration, we designed and pre-clinically validated a Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) construct characterized by a novel anti-CD30 single-chain variable-fragment cassette, linked to CD3ζ by the signaling domains of two costimulatory molecules, namely either CD28.4-1BB or CD28.OX40. We found that CAR.CD30 T-cells exhibit remarkable cytolytic activity in vitro against HL and NHL cell lines, with sustained proliferation and pro-inflammatory cytokine production, even after multiple and sequential lymphoma cell challenges. CAR.CD30 T-cells also demonstrated anti-lymphoma activity in two in vivo xenograft immune-deficient mouse models of metastatic HL and NHL. We observed that administration of CAR.CD30 T-cells, incorporating the CD28.OX40 costimulatory domains and manufactured in the presence of IL7 and IL15, were associated with the best overall survival in the treated mice, along with the establishment of a long-term immunological memory, able to protect mice from further tumor re-challenge. Our data indicate that, in the context of in vivo systemic metastatic xenograft mouse models, the costimulatory machinery of CD28.OX40 is crucial for improving persistence, in vivo expansion and proliferation of CAR.CD30 T-cells upon tumor encounter. CD28.OX40 costimulatory combination is ultimately responsible for the antitumor efficacy of the approach, paving the way to translate this therapeutic strategy in patients with CD30+ HL and NHL.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3324/haematol.2019.231183DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8018158PMC
April 2021

Dysregulated miR-155 and miR-125b Are Related to Impaired B-cell Responses in Down Syndrome.

Front Immunol 2018 20;9:2683. Epub 2018 Nov 20.

B cell Pathophysiology Unit, Immunology Research Area, Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital, IRCCS, Rome, Italy.

Children with Down Syndrome (DS) suffer from immune deficiency with a severe reduction in switched memory B cells (MBCs) and poor response to vaccination. Chromosome 21 (HSA21) encodes two microRNAs (miRs), miR-125b, and miR-155, that regulate B-cell responses. We studied B- and T- cell subpopulations in tonsils of DS and age-matched healthy donors (HD) and found that the germinal center (GC) reaction was impaired in DS. GC size, numbers of GC B cells and Follicular Helper T cells (T) expressing BCL6 cells were severely reduced. The expression of miR-155 and miR-125b was increased in tonsillar memory B cells and miR-125b was also higher than expected in plasma cells (PCs). Activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein, a miR-155 target, was significantly reduced in MBCs of DS patients. Increased expression of miR-155 was also observed . MiR-155 was significantly overexpressed in PBMCs activated with CpG, whereas miR-125b was constitutively higher than normal. The increase of miR-155 and its functional consequences were blocked by antagomiRs . Our data show that the expression of HSA21-encoded miR-155 and miR-125b is altered in B cells of DS individuals both and . Because of HSA21-encoded miRs may play a role also in DS-associated dementia and leukemia, our study suggests that antagomiRs may represent pharmacological tools useful for the treatment of DS.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2018.02683DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6255899PMC
October 2019

Evaluation of Endoglin (CD105) expression in pediatric rhabdomyosarcoma.

BMC Cancer 2018 01 5;18(1):31. Epub 2018 Jan 5.

Department of Hematology/Oncology, Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital, IRCCS, Piazza di Sant'Onofrio, 4, 00165, Rome, Italy.

Background: The Intratumoral Microvessel Density (IMVD) is commonly used to quantify tumoral vascularization and is usually assessed by pan-endothelial markers, such as CD31. Endoglin (CD105) is a protein predominantly expressed in proliferating endothelium and the IMVD determined by this marker measures specifically the neovascularization. In this study, we investigated the CD105 expression in pediatric rhabdomyosarcoma and assessed the neovascularization by using the angiogenic ratio IMVD-CD105 to IMVD-CD31.

Methods: Paraffin-embedded archival tumor specimens were selected from 65 pediatric patients affected by rhabdomyosarcoma. The expression levels of CD105, CD31 and Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) were investigated in 30 cases (18 embryonal and 12 alveolar) available for this study. The IMVD-CD105 to IMVD-CD31 expression ratio was correlated with clinical and pathologic features of these patients.

Results: We found a specific expression of endoglin (CD105) in endothelial cells of all the rhabdomyosarcoma specimens analyzed. We observed a significant positive correlation between the IMVD individually measured by CD105 and CD31. The CD105/CD31 expression ratio was significantly higher in patients with lower survival and embryonal histology. Indeed, patients with a CD105/CD31 expression ratio < 1.3 had a significantly increased OS (88%, 95%CI, 60%-97%) compared to patients with higher values (40%, 95%CI, 12%-67%). We did not find any statistical correlation among VEGF and EFS, OS and CD105/CD31 expression ratio.

Conclusion: CD105 is expressed on endothelial cells of rhabdomyosarcoma and represent a useful tool to quantify neovascularization in this tumor. If confirmed by further studies, these results will indicate that CD105 is a potential target for combined therapies in rhabdomyosarcoma.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12885-017-3947-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5755407PMC
January 2018

Biophysical and biological contributions of polyamine-coated carbon nanotubes and bidimensional buckypapers in the delivery of miRNAs to human cells.

Int J Nanomedicine 2018 18;13:1-18. Epub 2017 Dec 18.

Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital, IRCCS, Research Laboratories.

Recent findings in nanomedicine have revealed that carbon nanotubes (CNTs) can be used as potential drug carriers, therapeutic agents and diagnostics tools. Moreover, due to their ability to cross cellular membranes, their nanosize dimension, high surface area and relatively good biocompatibility, CNTs have also been employed as a novel gene delivery vector system. In our previous work, we functionalized CNTs with two polyamine polymers, polyethyleneimine (PEI) and polyamidoamine dendrimer (PAMAM). These compounds have low cytotoxicity, ability to conjugate microRNAs (such as miR-503) and, at the same time, transfect efficiently endothelial cells. The parameters contributing to the good efficiency of transfection that we observed were not investigated in detail. In fact, the diameter and length of CNTs are important parameters to be taken into account when evaluating the effects on drug delivery efficiency. In order to investigate the biophysical and biological contributions of polymer-coated CNTs in delivery of miRNAs to human cells, we decided to investigate three different preparations, characterized by different dimensions and aspect ratios. In particular, we took into account very small CNTs, a suspension of CNTs starting from the commercial product and a 2D material based on CNTs (ie, buckypapers [BPs]) to examine the transfection efficiency of a rigid scaffold. In conclusion, we extensively investigated the biophysical and biological contributions of polyamine-coated CNTs and bidimensional BPs in the delivery of miRNAs to human cells, in order to optimize the transfection efficiency of these compounds to be employed as efficient drug delivery vectors in biomedical applications.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2147/IJN.S144155DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5739113PMC
March 2018

Src nuclear localization and its prognostic relevance in human osteosarcoma.

J Cell Physiol 2018 Feb 17;233(2):1658-1670. Epub 2017 Aug 17.

Research Laboratories, Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital, Rome, Italy.

Osteosarcoma is the most common malignant bone tumor in children and young adults. The identification of proteins which exhibit different subcellular localization in low- versus high-risk osteosarcoma can be instrumental to obtain prognostic information and to develop innovative therapeutic strategies. Beside the well-characterized membrane and cytoplasmic localization of Src protein, this study evaluated the prognostic relevance of its so-far unknown nuclear compartmentalization. We analyzed the subcellular distribution of total and activated (pY418) Src in a tissue microarray including 60 osteosarcoma samples. Immunohistochemical analyses revealed a variable pattern of Src expression and localization, ranging from negative to high-stained nuclei combined with a substantial cytoplasmic staining for total and activated forms. The analysis of Kaplan-Meier survival curves in relationship to the diverse permutations of cytoplasmic and nuclear staining suggested a correlation between Src subcellular localization and the overall survival (OS) of osteosarcoma patients. In order to explain this different subcellular localization, normal osteoblasts and three osteosarcoma cell lines were used to investigate the molecular mechanism. Once confirmed a variable Src localization also in these cell lines, we demonstrated a correlation between the N-myristoyltransferase enzymes expression and activity and the Src nuclear content. In conclusion, these results described a so-far unknown Src nuclear localization in osteosarcoma cells, suggesting that the combined detection of nuclear and cytoplasmic Src levels can be used as a prognostic marker for osteosarcoma patient survival. A correlation between the N-myristoyltransferase enzymes and the Src subcellular localization was described as well.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jcp.26079DOI Listing
February 2018

Deregulation of the IL-1β axis in chronic recurrent multifocal osteomyelitis.

Pediatr Rheumatol Online J 2014 17;12:30. Epub 2014 Jul 17.

Rheumatology Unit, Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital, Rome, Italy.

Background: This study aims to investigate the inflammasome response in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and the expression of inflammasome components in bone biopsies from patients with chronic recurrent multifocal osteomyelitis (CRMO).

Methods: The expression of inflammasome components mRNAs was evaluated in PBMCs isolated from 15 CRMO patients and 13 healthy controls by quantitative real-time PCR. The Interleukin (IL)-1β released in the medium of PBMC cultures after treatment with lipopolysaccharides (LPS) alone or LPS and ATP was measured by ELISA. Immunohistochemical staining for Apoptosis-associated Speck-like protein (ASC), caspase-1 (CASP-1), Nod-like receptor protein-3 (NLRP3) and IL-1β expression was performed in bone biopsies from CRMO patients.

Results: mRNA levels of ASC, CASP-1 and IL-1β were significantly higher in freshly isolated PBMCs from CRMO patients in active disease than in healthy controls. CASP-1 and IL-1β transcript levels were significantly higher also in PBMCs from CRMO patients in remission compared to healthy controls. PBMCs from CRMO patients in active disease stimulated in vitro with LPS showed a significant increase in IL-1β release compared to healthy control cells. Immunohistochemistry staining of bone tissue revealed the expression of inflammasome components in CRMO osteoclasts.

Conclusions: Our data suggest that an abnormal regulation of IL-1β axis may be involved in CRMO pathogenesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1546-0096-12-30DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4109750PMC
November 2015

Association between Serum Atypical Fibroblast Growth Factors 21 and 19 and Pediatric Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.

PLoS One 2013 26;8(6):e67160. Epub 2013 Jun 26.

Hepato-Metabolic Disease Unit and Liver Research Unit, Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital, IRCCS, Rome, Italy.

Atypical fibroblast growth factors (FGF) 21 and 19 play a central role in energy metabolism through the mediation of Klotho coreceptor. Contradictory findings are available about the association of FGF21 and FGF19 with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in humans. We investigated the association of serum FGF21, FGF19 and liver Klotho coreceptor with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and fibrosis in children with NAFLD. Serum FGF21 and FGF19 were measured in 84 children with biopsy-proven NAFLD and 23 controls (CTRL). The hepatic expression of Klotho coreceptor was measured in 7 CTRL, 9 patients with NASH (NASH+) and 11 patients without NASH (NASH-). FGF21 and FGF19 showed a tendency to decrease from CTRL (median FGF21 = 196 pg/mL; median FGF19 = 201 pg/mL) to NASH- (FGF21 = 89 pg/mL; FGF19 = 81 pg/mL) to NASH+ patients (FGF21 = 54 pg/mL; FGF19 = 41 pg/mL) (p<0.001 for all comparisons) and were inversely associated with the probability of NASH and fibrosis in children with NAFLD. The hepatic expression of Klotho coreceptor was inversely associated with NASH (R(2) = 0.87, p<0.0001) and directly associated with serum FGF21 (R(2) = 0.57, p<0.0001) and FGF19 (R(2) = 0.67, p<0.0001). In conclusion, serum FGF19 and FGF21 and hepatic Klotho expression are inversely associated with hepatic damage in children with NAFLD and these findings may have important implications for understanding the mechanisms of NAFLD progression.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0067160PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3694051PMC
October 2017

IRF1 and NF-kB restore MHC class I-restricted tumor antigen processing and presentation to cytotoxic T cells in aggressive neuroblastoma.

PLoS One 2012 5;7(10):e46928. Epub 2012 Oct 5.

Paediatric Haematology/Oncology Department, Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital, IRCCS, Rome, Italy.

Neuroblastoma (NB), the most common solid extracranial cancer of childhood, displays a remarkable low expression of Major Histocompatibility Complex class I (MHC-I) and Antigen Processing Machinery (APM) molecules, including Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER) Aminopeptidases, and poorly presents tumor antigens to Cytotoxic T Lymphocytes (CTL). We have previously shown that this is due to low expression of the transcription factor NF-kB p65. Herein, we show that not only NF-kB p65, but also the Interferon Regulatory Factor 1 (IRF1) and certain APM components are low in a subset of NB cell lines with aggressive features. Whereas single transfection with either IRF1, or NF-kB p65 is ineffective, co-transfection results in strong synergy and substantial reversion of the MHC-I/APM-low phenotype in all NB cell lines tested. Accordingly, linked immunohistochemistry expression patterns between nuclear IRF1 and p65 on the one hand, and MHC-I on the other hand, were observed in vivo. Absence and presence of the three molecules neatly segregated between high-grade and low-grade NB, respectively. Finally, APM reconstitution by double IRF1/p65 transfection rendered a NB cell line susceptible to killing by anti MAGE-A3 CTLs, lytic efficiency comparable to those seen upon IFN-γ treatment. This is the first demonstration that a complex immune escape phenotype can be rescued by reconstitution of a limited number of master regulatory genes. These findings provide molecular insight into defective MHC-I expression in NB cells and provide the rational for T cell-based immunotherapy in NB variants refractory to conventional therapy.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0046928PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3465322PMC
April 2013

Association between mannose-binding lectin gene polymorphisms and necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm infants.

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2012 Aug;55(2):160-5

Laboratory of Rheumatology, Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital, Rome, Italy.

Objectives: The aim of the present study was to evaluate whether polymorphisms of the mannose-binding lectin (MBL-2) gene and MBL serum levels on admission to neonatal intensive care unit are associated with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in preterm infants and to verify MBL expression in NEC bowels.

Methods: In this retrospective cohort study, 107 neonates (41 with NEC and 66 controls) were included. MBL-2 genotyping for the promoter polymorphism -221 and for the exon 1 variant alleles at codons 52, 54, and 57 was performed. MBL levels were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in 55 infants. Immunohistochemical staining for MBL expression was performed on bowel specimens. The main study outcome was severe NEC (Bell stages II/III).

Results: The -221 Y allele and the MBL-2 YY genotype were more frequent in neonates with severe NEC than in controls (P = 0.04 and P = 0.004, respectively). In the multivariate analysis, the MBL-2 YA/YA genotype was associated with NEC (odds ratio = 3.03, 95% confidence interval 1.13%-8.13%, P = 0.024). Neonates with NEC had MBL level on admission >400 ng/mL more frequently than controls (P = 0.043). Among neonates with severe NEC, the deceased neonates were carriers of high or intermediate producing MBL-2 genotypes (P = 0.035). Finally, MBL was highly expressed in intestinal tissue from infants with NEC.

Conclusions: MBL-2 genotypes associated with high MBL serum levels represent a risk factor for NEC. This finding, together with the MBL expression in bowel tissue, supports a role for MBL in the pathogenesis of NEC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/MPG.0b013e31824e5f7aDOI Listing
August 2012