Publications by authors named "Silvia Ghezzi"

47 Publications

Liquid Biopsy for Prognosis and Treatment in Metastatic Colorectal Cancer: Circulating Tumor Cells vs Circulating Tumor DNA.

Target Oncol 2021 Mar 18. Epub 2021 Mar 18.

Niguarda Cancer Center, Grande Ospedale Metropolitano Niguarda, Milan, Italy.

Liquid biopsy recently gained widespread attention as a noninvasive alternative/complementary technique to tissue biopsy in patients with cancer. As technological advances have improved both feasibility and turnaround time, liquid biopsy has expanded tumor molecular analysis with acknowledgement of both spatial and temporal heterogeneity, overcoming many limitations of traditional tissue biopsy. Because of its diagnostic, prognostic, and predictive value, liquid biopsy has been extensively studied also in metastatic colorectal cancer. Indeed, as personalized medicine establishes its role in cancer treatment, genetic biomarkers unveiling the emergence of early resistance are needed. Among the wide variety of tumor analytes amenable to collection, circulating DNA and circulating tumor cells are the most adopted approaches, and both carry clinical relevance in colorectal cancer. However, few studies focused on comparing feasibility between these two approaches. In this review, we discuss the potential implications of liquid biopsy in metastatic colorectal cancer, assessing the advantages and drawbacks of circulating DNA and circulating tumor cells, and highlighting the most relevant trials for clinical practice.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11523-021-00795-5DOI Listing
March 2021

The Evolutionary Landscape of Treatment for Mutant Metastatic Colorectal Cancer.

Cancers (Basel) 2021 Jan 4;13(1). Epub 2021 Jan 4.

Niguarda Cancer Center, Grande Ospedale Metropolitano Niguarda, 20162 Milano, Italy.

The mutation is found in 8-10% of metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) patients and it is recognized as a poor prognostic factor with a median overall survival inferior to 20 months. At present, besides immune checkpoint inhibitors (CPIs) for those tumors with concomitant MSI-H status, recommended treatment options include cytotoxic chemotherapy + anti-VEGF in the first line setting, and a combination of EGFR and a BRAF inhibitor (cetuximab plus encorafenib) in second line. However, even with the latter targeted approach, acquired resistance limits the possibility of more than an incremental benefit and survival is still dismal. In this review, we discuss current treatment options for this subset of patients and perform a systematic review of ongoing clinical trials. Overall, we identified six emerging strategies: targeting MAPK pathway (monotherapy or combinations), targeting MAPK pathway combined with cytotoxic agents, intensive cytotoxic regimen combinations, targeted agents combined with CPIs, oxidative stress induction, and cytotoxic agents combined with antiangiogenic drugs and CPIs. In the future, the integration of new therapeutic strategies targeting key players in the oncogenic pathways with current treatment approach based on cytotoxic chemotherapy and surgery is likely to redefine the treatment landscape of these CRC patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers13010137DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7795863PMC
January 2021

Impact of inter-reader contouring variability on textural radiomics of colorectal liver metastases.

Eur Radiol Exp 2020 11 10;4(1):62. Epub 2020 Nov 10.

Department of Radiology, ASST Grande Ospedale Metropolitano Niguarda, Piazza Ospedale Maggiore 3, 20162, Milan, Italy.

Background: Radiomics is expected to improve the management of metastatic colorectal cancer (CRC). We aimed at evaluating the impact of liver lesion contouring as a source of variability on radiomic features (RFs).

Methods: After Ethics Committee approval, 70 liver metastases in 17 CRC patients were segmented on contrast-enhanced computed tomography scans by two residents and checked by experienced radiologists. RFs from grey level co-occurrence and run length matrices were extracted from three-dimensional (3D) regions of interest (ROIs) and the largest two-dimensional (2D) ROIs. Inter-reader variability was evaluated with Dice coefficient and Hausdorff distance, whilst its impact on RFs was assessed using mean relative change (MRC) and intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC). For the main lesion of each patient, one reader also segmented a circular ROI on the same image used for the 2D ROI.

Results: The best inter-reader contouring agreement was observed for 2D ROIs according to both Dice coefficient (median 0.85, interquartile range 0.78-0.89) and Hausdorff distance (0.21 mm, 0.14-0.31 mm). Comparing RF values, MRC ranged 0-752% for 2D and 0-1567% for 3D. For 24/32 RFs (75%), MRC was lower for 2D than for 3D. An ICC > 0.90 was observed for more RFs for 2D (53%) than for 3D (34%). Only 2/32 RFs (6%) showed a variability between 2D and circular ROIs higher than inter-reader variability.

Conclusions: A 2D contouring approach may help mitigate overall inter-reader variability, albeit stable RFs can be extracted from both 3D and 2D segmentations of CRC liver metastases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s41747-020-00189-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7652946PMC
November 2020

Biobanking for COVID-19 research.

Panminerva Med 2020 Oct 19. Epub 2020 Oct 19.

Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Milan, Italy.

Background: Biobanks are imperative infrastructures, particularly during outbreaks, when there is an obligation to acquire and share knowledge as quick as possible to allow for implementation of science-based preventive, diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic strategies.

Methods: We established a COVID-19 biobank with the aim of collecting high-quality and well-annotated human biospecimens, in the effort to understand the pathogenic mechanisms underlying COVID-19 and identify therapeutic targets (COVID-BioB, NCT04318366). Here we describe our experience and briefly review the characteristics of the biobanks for COVID-19 that have been so far established.

Results: A total of 46,677 samples have been collected from 913 participants (63.3% males, median [IQR] age 62.2 [51.2 - 74.0] years) since the beginning of the program. Most patients (66.9%) had been admitted to hospital for COVID-19, with a median length of stay of 15.0 (9.0 - 27.0) days. A minority of patients (13.3% of the total) had been admitted for other reasons and subsequently tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. The remainder were managed at home after being seen at the Emergency Department.

Conclusions: Having a solid research infrastructure already in place, along with flexibility and adaptability to new requirements, allowed for the quick building of a COVID-19 biobank that will help expand and share the knowledge of SARS-CoV-2.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.23736/S0031-0808.20.04168-3DOI Listing
October 2020

Pertuzumab and trastuzumab emtansine in patients with HER2-amplified metastatic colorectal cancer: the phase II HERACLES-B trial.

ESMO Open 2020 09;5(5):e000911

Niguarda Cancer Center, Grande Ospedale Metropolitano Niguarda, Milano, Italy; Dipartimento di Oncologia ed Emato-Oncologia, Università degli Studi di Milano (La Statale), Milano, Italy. Electronic address:

Background: HER2 is a therapeutic target for metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC), as demonstrated in the pivotal HERACLES-A (HER2 Amplification for Colo-rectaL cancer Enhanced Stratification) trial with trastuzumab and lapatinib. The aim of HERACLES-B trial is to assess the efficacy of the combination of pertuzumab and trastuzumab-emtansine (T-DM1) in this setting.

Methods: HERACLES-B was a single-arm, phase II trial, in patients with histologically confirmed wild-type and HER2+ mCRC refractory to standard treatments. HER2 positivity was assessed by immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridisation according to HERACLES criteria. Patients were treated with pertuzumab (840 mg intravenous load followed by 420 mg intravenous every 3 weeks) and T-DM1 (3.6 mg/kg every 3 weeks) until disease progression or toxicity. Primary and secondary end points were objective response rate (ORR) and progression-free survival (PFS). With a Fleming/Hern design (H0=ORR 10%; α=0.05; power=0.85), 7/30 responses were required to demonstrate an ORR ≥30% (H1).

Results: Thirty-one patients, 48% with ≥4 lines of previous therapies, were treated and evaluable. ORR was 9.7% (95% CI: 0 to 28) and stable disease (SD) 67.7% (95% CI: 50 to 85). OR/SD ≥4 months was associated with higher HER2 immunohistochemistry score (3+ vs 2+) (p = 0.03). Median PFS was 4.1 months (95% CI: 3.6 to 5.9). Drug-related grade (G) 3 adverse events were observed in two patients (thrombocytopaenia); G≤2 AE in 84% of cycles (n = 296), mainly nausea and fatigue.

Conclusions: HERACLES-B trial did not reach its primary end point of ORR; however, based on high disease control, PFS similar to other anti-HER2 regimens, and low toxicity, pertuzumab in combination with T-DM1 can be considered for HER2+mCRC as a potential therapeutic resource.

Trial Registration Number: 2012-002128-33 and NCT03225937.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/esmoopen-2020-000911DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7523198PMC
September 2020

Long-term Clinical Outcome of Trastuzumab and Lapatinib for HER2-positive Metastatic Colorectal Cancer.

Clin Colorectal Cancer 2020 Dec 27;19(4):256-262.e2. Epub 2020 Jun 27.

Niguarda Cancer Center, Grande Ospedale Metropolitano Niguarda, Milan, Italy; Dipartimento di Oncologia ed Emato-Oncologia, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy. Electronic address:

Background: ERBB2 amplification occurs in 5% of RAS wild-type metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) and it has been shown to be a target for treatment with 2 HER2-directed combinations of trastuzumab and lapatinib or trastuzumab and pertuzumab. We present long-term clinical results of trastuzumab and lapatinib (HERACLES-A trial) at 6.7 years (82 months) follow-up and focus on central nervous system (CNS) recurrences.

Patients And Methods: Patients had histologically confirmed KRAS exon 2 (codons 12 and 13) wild-type and HER2-positive mCRC. HER2 positivity was assessed by immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization HERACLES diagnostic criteria. Patients were treated with intravenous trastuzumab 4 mg/kg loading dose, then 2 mg/kg once per week, and oral lapatinib 1000 mg per day until disease progression or toxicity. Patients who presented with symptoms or signs of CNS disease received brain computed tomography scan or magnetic resonance imaging.

Results: A total of 35 patients received trastuzumab and lapatinib and 32 were evaluable for response. One patient (3%) achieved complete response (CR), 8 (25%) partial response, and 13 (41%) stable disease. Therefore, response rate was 28%. Median progression-free survival was 4.7 months (95% confidence interval [CI] 3.7-6.1). Median overall survival was 10.0 months (95% CI 7.9-15.8). One patient achieved sustained CR still maintained at 7 years of follow-up. Progression in the central nervous system (CNS) occurred in 6 (19%) of 32 patients.

Conclusions: Long-term (6.7 years) follow-up analysis of HERACLES-A supports using of trastuzumab and lapatinib as treatment reference for KRAS wild-type, chemorefractory HER2-positive mCRC. In this subset of patients, prolongation of survival is accompanied by CNS recurrences that will require diagnostic and therapeutic attention in future studies. Clinicaltrials. Gov identifier: NCT 03225937.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clcc.2020.06.009DOI Listing
December 2020

Liquid biopsy for rectal cancer: A systematic review.

Cancer Treat Rev 2019 Sep 31;79:101893. Epub 2019 Aug 31.

Niguarda Cancer Center, Grande Ospedale Metropolitano Niguarda, Milan, Italy; Università degli Studi di Milano, Department of Oncology and Hemato-Oncology, Milan, Italy. Electronic address:

Background: The management of locally advanced rectal cancer (RC) is an evolving clinical field where the multidisciplinary approach can reach its best, and liquid biopsy for obtaining tumor-derived component such as circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) might provide complementary informations.

Methods: A systematic review of studies available in literature of liquid biopsy in non-metastatic RC has been performed according to PRISMA criteria to assess the role of ctDNA as a diagnostic, predictive and prognostic biomarker in this setting.

Results: Twenty-five publications have been retrieved, of which 8 full-text articles, 7 abstracts and 10 clinical trials. Results have been categorized into three groups: diagnostic, predictive and prognostic. Few but promising data are available about the use of liquid biopsy for early diagnosis of RC, with the main limitation of sensitivity due to low concentrations of ctDNA in this setting. In terms of prediction of response to chemoradiation, still inconclusive data are available about the utility of a pre-treatment liquid biopsy, whereas some studies report a positive correlation with a dynamic (pre/post-treatment) monitoring. The presence of minimal residual disease by ctDNA was consistently associated with worse prognosis across studies.

Conclusions: The use of liquid biopsy for monitoring response to chemoradiation and assess the risk of disease recurrence are the most advanced potential applications for liquid biopsy in RC, with implications also in the context of non-operative management strategies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ctrv.2019.101893DOI Listing
September 2019

HER2 Positivity Predicts Unresponsiveness to EGFR-Targeted Treatment in Metastatic Colorectal Cancer.

Oncologist 2019 10 5;24(10):1395-1402. Epub 2019 Apr 5.

Niguarda Cancer Center, Grande Ospedale Metropolitano Niguarda, Milan, Italy

Background: HER2 amplification is detected in 3% of patients with colorectal cancer (CRC), making tumors in the metastatic setting vulnerable to double pharmacological HER2 blockade. Preclinical findings show that it also might impair response to anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) treatment.

Subjects And Methods: Patients with exon 2 wild-type metastatic CRC underwent molecular screening of HER2 positivity by HERACLES criteria (immunohistochemistry 3+ or 2+ in ≥50% of cells, confirmed by fluorescence in situ hybridization). A sample of consecutive HER2-negative patients was selected as control. A regression modeling strategy was applied to identify predictors explaining the bulk of HER2 positivity and the association with response to previous anti-EGFR treatment.

Results: From August 2012 to April 2018, a total of 100 HER2-positive metastatic CRC tumors were detected out of 1,485 exon 2 wild-type screened patients (6.7%). HER2-positive patients show more frequently lung metastases (odds ratio [OR], 2.04; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.15-3.61; = .014) and higher tumor burden (OR, 1.48; 95% CI, 1.10-2.01; = .011), and tumors were more likely to be left sided (OR, 0.50; 95% CI, 0.22-1.11; = .088). HER2-positive patients who received treatment with anti-EGFR agents ( = 79) showed poorer outcome (objective response rate, 31.2% vs. 46.9%, = .031; progression-free survival, 5.7 months vs. 7 months, = .087).

Conclusion: Testing for HER2 should be offered to all patients with metastatic CRC because the occurrence of this biomarker is unlikely to be predicted based on main clinicopathological features. Patients with HER2-amplified metastatic CRC are less likely to respond to anti-EGFR therapy.

Implications For Practice: Patients with -amplified/overexpressed metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) harbor a driver actionable molecular alteration that has been shown in preclinical models to hamper efficacy of the anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) targeted therapies. The present study confirmed that this molecular feature was associated with worse objective tumor response and shorter progression-free survival in response to previous anti-EGFR therapies. Moreover, it was found that the occurrence of this biomarker is unlikely to be predicted based on main clinicopathological features. Therefore, HER2 status assessment should be included in the molecular diagnostic workup of all mCRC for speedy referral to clinical trials encompassing HER2-targeted double blockade independently of previous anti-EGFR treatment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1634/theoncologist.2018-0785DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6795149PMC
October 2019

Radiologic and Genomic Evolution of Individual Metastases during HER2 Blockade in Colorectal Cancer.

Cancer Cell 2018 07;34(1):148-162.e7

Niguarda Cancer Center, Grande Ospedale Metropolitano Niguarda, Milan 20162, Italy.

Targeting HER2 is effective in 24% of ERBB2 amplified metastatic colorectal cancer; however, secondary resistance occurs in most of the cases. We studied the evolution of individual metastases during treatment to discover spatially resolved determinants of resistance. Circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) analysis identified alterations associated with resistance in the majority of refractory patients. ctDNA profiles and lesion-specific radiographic reports revealed organ- or metastasis-private evolutionary patterns. When radiologic assessments documented progressive disease in target lesions, response to HER2 blockade was retained in other metastases. Genomic and functional analyses on samples and cell models from eight metastases of a patient co-recruited to a postmortem study unveiled lesion-specific evolutionary trees and pharmacologic vulnerabilities. Lesion size and contribution of distinct metastases to plasma ctDNA were correlated.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ccell.2018.06.004DOI Listing
July 2018

Zika Virus Replication in Dorsal Root Ganglia Explants from Interferon Receptor1 Knockout Mice Causes Myelin Degeneration.

Sci Rep 2018 07 5;8(1):10166. Epub 2018 Jul 5.

Viral Pathogens and Biosafety Unit, Division of Immunology, Transplantation and Infectious Diseases, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milan, Italy.

Zika virus (ZIKV) is a neurotropic agent that targets the developing fetal brain in women infected during pregnancy. In addition to the developing central nervous system, ZIKV has been recently shown to infect cells of the peripheral nervous system (PNS), highlighting its potential to cause acute peripheral neuropathies in adults, such as Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS). Here we show that myelinating dorsal root ganglia (DRG) explants obtained from interferon-alpha/beta receptor knock-out mice are productively infected by ZIKV. Virus replication is cytopathic in both peripheral neurons and myelinating Schwann cells leading to myelin disruption. These results confirm and extend previous observations suggesting that the PNS is indeed a potential site of ZIKV infection, replication and cytopathicity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-28257-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6033858PMC
July 2018

Subverting the mechanisms of cell death: flavivirus manipulation of host cell responses to infection.

Biochem Soc Trans 2018 06 20;46(3):609-617. Epub 2018 Apr 20.

Department of Biochemistry, IIB, University of Liverpool, Crown Street, Liverpool L69 7ZB, U.K.

Viruses exploit host metabolic and defence machinery for their own replication. The flaviviruses, which include Dengue (DENV), Yellow Fever (YFV), Japanese Encephalitis (JEV), West Nile (WNV) and Zika (ZIKV) viruses, infect a broad range of hosts, cells and tissues. Flaviviruses are largely transmitted by mosquito bites and humans are usually incidental, dead-end hosts, with the notable exceptions of YFV, DENV and ZIKV. Infection by flaviviruses elicits cellular responses including cell death via necrosis, pyroptosis (involving inflammation) or apoptosis (which avoids inflammation). Flaviviruses exploit these mechanisms and subvert them to prolong viral replication. The different effects induced by DENV, WNV, JEV and ZIKV are reviewed. Host cell surface proteoglycans (PGs) bearing glycosaminoglycan (GAG) polysaccharides - heparan/chondroitin sulfate (HS/CS) - are involved in initial flavivirus attachment and during the expression of non-structural viral proteins play a role in disease aetiology. Recent work has shown that ZIKV-infected cells are protected from cell death by exogenous heparin (a GAG structurally similar to host cell surface HS), raising the possibility of further subtle involvement of HS PGs in flavivirus disease processes. The aim of this review is to synthesize information regarding DENV, WNV, JEV and ZIKV from two areas that are usually treated separately: the response of host cells to infection by flaviviruses and the involvement of cell surface GAGs in response to those infections.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1042/BST20170399DOI Listing
June 2018

Radiological imaging markers predicting clinical outcome in patients with metastatic colorectal carcinoma treated with regorafenib: post hoc analysis of the CORRECT phase III trial (RadioCORRECT study).

ESMO Open 2016 13;1(6):e000111. Epub 2017 Feb 13.

Niguarda Cancer Center, Grande Ospedale Metropolitano Niguarda, Milan, Italy.

Objective: To identify imaging markers predicting clinical outcomes to regorafenib in metastatic colorectal carcinoma (mCRC).

Methods: The RadioCORRECT study is a post hoc analysis of a cohort of patients with mCRC treated within the phase III placebo-controlled CORRECT trial of regorafenib. Baseline and week 8 contrast-enhanced CT were used to assess response by RECIST 1.1, changes in the sum of target lesion diameters (ΔSTL), lung metastases cavitation and liver metastases density. Primary and secondary objectives were to develop ex novo univariable and multivariable models to predict overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS), respectively.

Results: 202 patients were enrolled, 134 (66.3%) treated with regorafenib and 68 (33.7%) with placebo. In the univariate analysis, PFS predictors were lung metastases cavitation at baseline (HR 0.50, 95% CI 0.27 to 0.92, p=0.03) and at week 8 (HR 0.58, 95% CI 0.36 to 0.93, p=0.02). Baseline cavitation (HR 0.23, 95% CI 0.08 to 0.66, p=0.007), RECIST 1.1 (HR 0.23, 95% CI 0.14 to 0.4, p <0.0001) and ΔSTL (HR 1.16, 95% CI 1.06 to 1.27, p=0.002) predicted OS. We found an increase of 9% of diameter as the best threshold for discriminating OS (HR 2.64, 95% CI 1.61 to 4.34, p <0.001). In the multivariate analysis, baseline and week 8 cavitation remained significant PFS predictors. Baseline cavitation, RECIST 1.1 and ΔSTL remained predictors of OS in exploratory multivariable models. Assessment of liver metastases density did not predict clinical outcome.

Conclusions: RECIST 1.1 and ΔSTL predict favourable outcome to regorafenib. In contrast to liver metastases density that failed to be a predictor, lung metastases cavitation represents a novel radiological marker of favourable outcome that deserves consideration.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/esmoopen-2016-000111DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5548980PMC
February 2017

Pooled Analysis of Clinical Outcome of Patients with Chemorefractory Metastatic Colorectal Cancer Treated within Phase I/II Clinical Studies Based on Individual Biomarkers of Susceptibility: A Single-Institution Experience.

Target Oncol 2017 08;12(4):525-533

Niguarda Cancer Center, Grande Ospedale Metropolitano Niguarda, Piazza Ospedale Maggiore, 3, 20162, Milan, Italy.

Background: Patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) refractory to standard therapies have a poor prognosis. In this setting, recruitment into clinical trials is warranted, and studies driven by selection according to individual tumor molecular characteristics are expected to provide added value.

Objective: We retrospectively analyzed data from patients with mCRC refractory to or following failure of standard therapies who were enrolled into phase I/II clinical studies at the Niguarda Cancer Center based on the presence of a specific molecular profile expected to represent the target of susceptibility to the experimental drug(s).

Patients And Methods: From June 2011 to May 2016, 2044 patients with mCRC underwent molecular screening. Eighty patients (3.9%) were enrolled in ad hoc studies; the median age was 60 years (range 36-86) and the median number of previous treatment lines was five (range 2-8). Molecular characteristics exploited within these studies were MGMT promoter hypermethylation (48.7%), HER2 amplification (28.8%), BRAF mutation (20%), and novel gene fusions involving ALK or NTRK (2.5%).

Results: One patient (1%) had RECIST (Response Evaluation Criteria In Solid Tumors) complete response (CR), 13 patients (16.5%) experienced a partial response (PR), and 28 (35%) stable disease (SD). Median progression-free survival (PFS) was 2.8 months (range 2.63-3.83), with 24% of patients displaying PFS >5 months. Median growth modulation index (GMI) was 0.85 (range 0-15.61) and 32.5% of patients had GMI >1.33. KRAS exon 2 mutations were found in 38.5% of patients, and among the 78 patients with known KRAS status, those with wild-type tumors had longer PFS than those with mutated tumors (3.80 [95% CI 2.80-5.03] vs. 2.13 months [95% CI 1.77-2.87], respectively, p = 0.001). Median overall survival (OS) was 7.83 months (range 7.17-9.33) for all patients, and patients with KRAS wild-type tumors had longer OS than those with mutated tumors (7.83 [95% CI 7.33-10.80] vs. 7.18 months [95% CI 5.63-9.33], respectively, p = 0.06).

Conclusions: This single-institution retrospective study indicates that in a heavily pretreated population approximately 4% of mCRC tumors display a potential actionable molecular context suitable for therapeutic intervention. Application of molecular selection is challenging but improves clinical outcome even in later lines of treatment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11523-017-0505-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5524857PMC
August 2017

5-Hydroxytyrosol inhibits HIV-1 replication in primary cells of the lower and upper female reproductive tract.

Antiviral Res 2017 06 7;142:16-20. Epub 2017 Mar 7.

AIDS Immunopathogenesis Unit, Division of Immunology, Transplantation and Infectious Diseases, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Via Olgettina 58, 20132, Milano, Italy; Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, School of Medicine, Via Olgettina 58, 20132, Milano, Italy. Electronic address:

We investigated the potential anti-HIV-1 activity of the candidate microbicide 5-hydroxytyrosol (5-HT) both in primary human cervical tissue explants (CTE), established from tissues of women undergoing histerectomy, and in endometrium-associated leukocytes (EAL). CTE were exposed to either the laboratory-adapted HIV-1 or to primary viral isolates in the presence or absence of 5-HT or 3TC/lamivudine as control and were then monitored for 12 days in terms of HIV-1 p24 Gag antigen production in culture supernatants. HIV-1 replication was also evaluated in EAL by reverse transcriptase (RT) activity. The highest nontoxic concentrations of 5-HT (200 and 100 μM for CTE and EAL, respectively) exerted a significant inhibitory effect on virus replication in both primary cell systems. 5-HT did not cause significant alterations of the activation profile of CD4 and CD8 T cells, in terms of CD4, CCR5, CD25, CD69 and HLA-DR expression, although it decreased the percentage of CD38CD8 T cells. Thus, 5-HT deserves consideration as a potential candidate microbicide for preventing HIV-1 transmission or curtailing its replication in the female reproductive tract.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.antiviral.2017.03.003DOI Listing
June 2017

Human Endometrial Stromal Cells Are Highly Permissive To Productive Infection by Zika Virus.

Sci Rep 2017 03 10;7:44286. Epub 2017 Mar 10.

Viral Pathogens and Biosafety Unit, Division of Immunology, Transplantation and Infectious Diseases, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milan, Italy.

Zika virus (ZIKV) is a recently re-emerged flavivirus transmitted to humans by mosquito bites but also from mother to fetus and by sexual intercourse. We here show that primary human endometrial stromal cells (HESC) are highly permissive to ZIKV infection and support its in vitro replication. ZIKV envelope expression was detected in the endoplasmic reticulum whereas double-stranded viral RNA colocalized with vimentin filaments to the perinuclear region. ZIKV productive infection also occurred in the human T-HESC cell line together with the induction of interferon-β (IFN-β) and of IFN-stimulated genes. Notably, in vitro decidualization of T-HESC with cyclic AMP and progesterone upregulated the cell surface expression of the ZIKV entry co-receptor AXL and boosted ZIKV replication by ca. 100-fold. Thus, endometrial stromal cells, particularly if decidualized, likely represent a crucial cell target of ZIKV reaching them, either via the uterine vasculature in the viremic phase of the infection or by sexual viral transmission, and a potential source of virus spreading to placental trophoblasts during pregnancy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep44286DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5345097PMC
March 2017

Heparin prevents Zika virus induced-cytopathic effects in human neural progenitor cells.

Antiviral Res 2017 04 5;140:13-17. Epub 2017 Jan 5.

San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Via Olgettina, Milano 20132, Italy.

The recent Zika virus (ZIKV) outbreak, which mainly affected Brazil and neighbouring states, demonstrated the paucity of information concerning the epidemiology of several flaviruses, but also highlighted the lack of available agents with which to treat such emerging diseases. Here, we show that heparin, a widely used anticoagulant, while exerting a modest inhibitory effect on Zika Virus replication, fully prevents virus-induced cell death of human neural progenitor cells (NPCs).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.antiviral.2016.12.023DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7113768PMC
April 2017

Digital PCR assessment of MGMT promoter methylation coupled with reduced protein expression optimises prediction of response to alkylating agents in metastatic colorectal cancer patients.

Eur J Cancer 2017 01 18;71:43-50. Epub 2016 Dec 18.

Niguarda Cancer Center, Grande Ospedale Metropolitano Niguarda, Milan, Italy; Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy.

Background: O(6)-methylguanine-DNA-methyltransferase (MGMT) is a repair protein, and its deficiency makes tumours more susceptible to the cytotoxic effect of alkylating agents. Five clinical trials with temozolomide or dacarbazine have been performed in metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) with selection based on methyl-specific PCR (MSP) testing with modest results. We hypothesised that mitigated results are consequences of unspecific patient selection and that alternative methodologies for MGMT testing such as immunohistochemistry (IHC) and digital polymerase chain reaction (PCR) could enhance patient enrolment.

Patients And Methods: Formalin-fixed paraffin embedded archival tumour tissue samples from four phase II studies of temozolomide or dacarbazine in MGMT MSP-positive mCRCs were analysed by IHC for MGMT protein expression and by methyl-BEAMing (MB) for percentage of promoter methylation. Pooled data were then retrospectively analysed according to objective response rate, progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS).

Results: One hundred and five patients were included in the study. Twelve had achieved partial response (PR) (11.4%), 24 stable disease (SD; 22.9%) and 69 progressive disease (PD; 65.7%). Patients with PR/SD had lower IHC scores and higher MB levels than those with PD. MGMT expression by IHC was negatively and MB levels positively associated with PFS (p < 0.001 and 0.004, respectively), but not with OS. By combining both assays, IHC low/MB high patients displayed an 87% reduction in the hazard of progression (p < 0.001) and a 77% in the hazard for death (p = 0.001).

Conclusion: In mCRC selected for MGMT deficiency by MSP, IHC and MB testing improve clinical outcome to alkylating agents. Their combination could enhance patient selection in this setting.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejca.2016.10.032DOI Listing
January 2017

Zika Virus: a re-emerging pathogen with rapidly evolving public health implications.

New Microbiol 2016 Apr;39(2):86-90

Viral Pathogens and Biosafety Unit.

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April 2016

Dual-targeted therapy with trastuzumab and lapatinib in treatment-refractory, KRAS codon 12/13 wild-type, HER2-positive metastatic colorectal cancer (HERACLES): a proof-of-concept, multicentre, open-label, phase 2 trial.

Lancet Oncol 2016 Jun 20;17(6):738-746. Epub 2016 Apr 20.

Niguarda Cancer Center, Grande Ospedale Metropolitano Niguarda, Milano, Italy; Dipartimento di Oncologia e Emato-Oncologia Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy.

Background: We previously found that dual HER2 blockade with trastuzumab and lapatinib led to inhibition of tumour growth in patient-derived xenografts of HER2-amplified metastatic colorectal cancer. In this study, we aimed to assess the antitumour activity of trastuzumab and lapatinib in patients with HER2-positive colorectal cancer.

Methods: HERACLES was a proof-of-concept, multicentre, open-label, phase 2 trial done at four Italian academic cancer centres. We enrolled adult patients with KRAS exon 2 (codons 12 and 13) wild-type and HER2-positive metastatic colorectal cancer refractory to standard of care (including cetuximab or panitumumab), an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status of 0 or 1, and at least one measurable lesion. We defined HER2 positivity in tumour samples by use of immunohistochemistry and fluorescence in-situ hybridisation in accordance with our previously validated colorectal cancer-specific diagnostic criteria. Eligible patients received intravenous trastuzumab at 4 mg/kg loading dose followed by 2 mg/kg once per week, and oral lapatinib at 1000 mg per day until evidence of disease progression. The primary endpoint was the proportion of patients achieving an objective response (defined as complete response or partial response), which was assessed by independent central review in the intention-to-treat population. This trial is registered with EudraCT, number 2012-002128-33.

Findings: Between Aug 27, 2012, and May 15, 2015, we screened 914 patients with KRAS exon 2 (codons 12 and 13) wild-type metastatic colorectal cancer and identified 48 (5%) patients with HER2-positive tumours, although two died before enrolment. Of these patients, 27 were eligible for the trial. All were evaluable for response. At the time of data cutoff on Oct 15, 2015, with a median follow-up of 94 weeks (IQR 51-127), eight (30%, 95% CI 14-50) of 27 patients had achieved an objective response, with one patient (4%, 95% CI -3 to 11) achieving a complete response, and seven (26%, 95% CI 9-43) achieving partial responses; 12 (44%, 95% CI 25-63) patients had stable disease. Six (22%) of 27 patients had grade 3 adverse events, which consisted of fatigue in four patients, skin rash in one patient, and increased bilirubin concentration in one patient. No grade 4 or 5 adverse events were reported. We detected no drug-related serious adverse events.

Interpretation: The combination of trastuzumab and lapatinib is active and well tolerated in treatment-refractory patients with HER2-positive metastatic colorectal cancer.

Funding: Associazione Italiana Ricerca Cancro (AIRC), Fondazione Oncologia Niguarda Onlus, and Roche.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(16)00150-9DOI Listing
June 2016

The MHC-II transactivator CIITA inhibits Tat function and HIV-1 replication in human myeloid cells.

J Transl Med 2016 Apr 18;14:94. Epub 2016 Apr 18.

Department of Surgical and Morphological Sciences, University of Insubria, Varese, Italy.

Background: We previously demonstrated that the HLA class II transactivator CIITA inhibits HIV-1 replication in T cells by competing with the viral transactivator Tat for the binding to Cyclin T1 subunit of the P-TEFb complex. Here, we analyzed the anti-viral function of CIITA in myeloid cells, another relevant HIV-1 target cell type. We sinvestigated clones of the U937 promonocytic cell line, either permissive (Plus) or non-permissive (Minus) to HIV-1 replication. This different phenotype has been associated with the expression of TRIM22 in U937 Minus but not in Plus cells.

Methods: U937 Plus cells stably expressing CIITA were generated and HLA-II positive clones were selected by cell sorting and cloning. HLA and CIITA proteins were analyzed by cytofluorometry and western blotting, respectively. HLA-II DR and CIITA mRNAs were quantified by qRT-PCR. Tat-dependent transactivation was assessed by performing the HIV-1 LTR luciferase gene reporter assay. Cells were infected with HIV-1 and viral replication was evaluated by measuring the RT activity in culture supernatants.

Results: CIITA was expressed only in HLA-II-positive U937 Minus cells, and this was strictly correlated with inhibition of Tat-dependent HIV-1 LTR transactivation in Minus but not in Plus cells. Overexpression of CIITA in Plus cells restored the suppression of Tat transactivation, confirming the inhibitory role of CIITA. Importantly, HIV-1 replication was significantly reduced in Plus-CIITA cells with respect to Plus parental cells. This effect was independent of TRIM22 as CIITA did not induce TRIM22 expression in Plus-CIITA cells.

Conclusions: U937 Plus and Minus cells represent an interesting model to study the role of CIITA in HIV-1 restriction in the monocytic/macrophage cell lineage. The differential expression of CIITA in CIITA-negative Plus and CIITA-positive Minus cells correlated with their capacity to support or not HIV-1 replication, respectively. In Minus cells CIITA targeted the viral transactivator Tat to inhibit HIV-1 replication. The generation of Plus-CIITA cells was instrumental to demonstrate the specific contribution of CIITA in terms of inhibition of Tat activity and HIV-1 restriction, independently from other cellular factors, including TRIM22. Thus, CIITA acts as a general restriction factor against HIV-1 not only in T cells but also in myeloid cells.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12967-016-0853-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4835826PMC
April 2016

The lung cancer breath signature: a comparative analysis of exhaled breath and air sampled from inside the lungs.

Sci Rep 2015 Nov 12;5:16491. Epub 2015 Nov 12.

Department of Electronic Engineering, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Via del Politecnico 1, 00133 Rome, Italy.

Results collected in more than 20 years of studies suggest a relationship between the volatile organic compounds exhaled in breath and lung cancer. However, the origin of these compounds is still not completely elucidated. In spite of the simplistic vision that cancerous tissues in lungs directly emit the volatile metabolites into the airways, some papers point out that metabolites are collected by the blood and then exchanged at the air-blood interface in the lung. To shed light on this subject we performed an experiment collecting both the breath and the air inside both the lungs with a modified bronchoscopic probe. The samples were measured with a gas chromatography-mass spectrometer (GC-MS) and an electronic nose. We found that the diagnostic capability of the electronic nose does not depend on the presence of cancer in the sampled lung, reaching in both cases an above 90% correct classification rate between cancer and non-cancer samples. On the other hand, multivariate analysis of GC-MS achieved a correct classification rate between the two lungs of only 76%. GC-MS analysis of breath and air sampled from the lungs demonstrates a substantial preservation of the VOCs pattern from inside the lung to the exhaled breath.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep16491DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4642313PMC
November 2015

Characterization of HIV-1 entry inhibitors with broad activity against R5 and X4 viral strains.

J Transl Med 2015 Apr 2;13:107. Epub 2015 Apr 2.

Unit of Molecular Immunology, Division of Genetics and Cell Biology, San Raffaele Hospital, Via Olgettina 60, 20132, Milan, Italy.

Background: Combined antiretroviral therapy has drastically reduced mortality and morbidity of HIV-infected individuals. Nevertheless long-term toxicity and appearance of viral resistance hampers the prolonged effectiveness of combination therapy, requiring a continuous input of drugs to replace those utilized in combination regimens. We here investigated the anti-HIV activity of novel derivatives of the suradista chemical class.

Methods: Compounds were tested on acute HIV-1 infection of activated peripheral blood mononuclear cells. HIV production was monitored by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay measuring the protein p24 released in culture supernatants. Fusion assays were carried out to study the mechanism of action of these compounds. A modified version of a previously established recombinant vaccinia virus-based assay was used measuring activation of a reporter gene upon fusion of two distinct cell populations. Flow cytometry was performed in competition assays for the binding of several antibodies targeting different sites of the viral envelope glycoprotein gp120, or the receptor CD4, or the coreceptors CXCR4 and CCR5.

Results: Four compounds inhibited replication of a prototypic R5 (BaL) and X4 (IIIB) laboratory-adapted HIV-1 strain at low micromolar concentrations, in the absence of cytotoxicity. Approximately a ten fold greater activity was achieved against the X4 as compared to the R5 strain. The compounds blocked X4 and R5 HIV-1 fusion, a step of viral entry. This activity appeared specific for HIV-1, as entry of human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) and influenza virus was not substantially affected. Further investigation of the inhibitory mechanism revealed that these new molecules target the viral envelope, rather than the coreceptors, as previously shown for a congener of the same class characterized by a long plasmatic half-life. Indeed ND-4043, the most active compound, specifically competed with binding of monoclonal antibodies against the CD4-binding site (CD4-BS) and coreceptor-binding site (CoR-BS) of gp120. These compounds displayed broad anti-HIV activity, as they inhibited various primary R5, X4 and, importantly, dualtropic R5X4 HIV-1 isolates. Of the four derivatives tested, the dimeric compounds were consistently more potent than the monomeric ones.

Conclusions: Given their unique features, these molecules represent promising candidates for further development and exploitation as anti-HIV therapeutics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12967-015-0461-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4399250PMC
April 2015

Spontaneous control of HIV-1 viremia in a subject with protective HLA-B plus HLA-C alleles and HLA-C associated single nucleotide polymorphisms.

J Transl Med 2014 Dec 5;12:335. Epub 2014 Dec 5.

AIDS Immunopathogenesis Unit, Division of Immunology, Transplantation and Infectious Disease, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Via Olgettina n. 58, Milan, 20132, Italy.

Introduction: Understanding the mechanisms by which some individuals are able to naturally control HIV-1 infection is an important goal of AIDS research. We here describe the case of an HIV-1(+) woman, CASE1, who has spontaneously controlled her viremia for the last 14 of her 20 years of infection.

Methods: CASE1 has been clinically monitored since 1993. Detailed immunological, virological and histological analyses were performed on samples obtained between 2009 and 2011.

Results: As for other Elite Controllers, CASE1 is characterized by low to undetectable levels of plasma HIV-1 RNA, peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) associated HIV-1 DNA and reduced in vitro susceptibility of target cells to HIV-1 infection. Furthermore, a slow rate of virus evolution was demonstrated in spite the lack of assumption of any antiretroviral agent. CASE1 failed to transmit HIV-1 to either her sexual male partner or to her child born by vaginal delivery. Normal values and ratios of T and B cells were observed, along with normal histology of the intestinal mucosa. Attempts to isolate HIV-1 from her PBMC and gut-derived cells were unsuccessful, despite expression of normal cell surface levels of CD4, CCRC5 and CXCR4. CASE1 did not produce detectable anti-HIV neutralizing antibodies in her serum or genital mucosal fluid although she displayed potent T cell responses against HIV-1 Gag and Nef. CASE1 also possessed multiple genetic polymorphisms, including HLA alleles (B*14, B*57, C*06 and C*08.02) and HLA-C single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, rs9264942 C/C and rs67384697 del/del), that have been previously individually associated with spontaneous control of plasma viremia, maintenance of high CD4(+) T cell counts and delayed disease progression.

Conclusions: CASE1 has controlled her HIV-1 viremia below the limit of detection in the absence of antiretroviral therapy for more than 14 years and has not shown any sign of immunologic deterioration or disease progression. Co-expression of multiple protective HLA alleles, HLA-C SNPs and strong T cell responses against HIV-1 proteins are the most likely explanation of this very benign case of spontaneous control of HIV-1 disease progression.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12967-014-0335-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4272524PMC
December 2014

Identification of TRIM22 single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with loss of inhibition of HIV-1 transcription and advanced HIV-1 disease.

AIDS 2013 Sep;27(15):2335-44

aViral Pathogens and Biosafety Unit, Division of Immunology, Transplantation and Infectious Diseases bDepartment of Infectious Diseases cDivision of Genetics and Cell Biology, San Raffaele Scientific Institute dUniversity of Milan eGEMIB srl, Parma fAIDS Immunopathogenesis Unit, Division of Immunology, Transplantation and Infectious Diseases, San Raffaele Scientific Institute gUniversità Vita-Salute San Raffaele, School of Medicine, Milan, Italy.

Objective(s): Tripartite motif-containing 22 (TRIM22) is an interferon-induced protein that inhibits HIV-1 transcription and replication in vitro. Two single nucleotide missense polymorphisms rs7935564A/G (SNP-1) and rs1063303C/G (SNP-2) characterize the coding sequence of human TRIM22 gene. We tested whether these variants affected the inhibitory effect of TRIM22 on HIV-1 replication and transcription and their potential association with HIV-1 disease.

Design: The allelic discrimination was determined in 182 HIV-1-negative and among HIV-1-positive individuals with advanced disease progression (advanced progressors; n = 57), normal progressors (n = 76), and long-term nonprogressors (LTNPs; n = 95).

Methods: Renilla luciferase activity was measured after infection of activated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from an additional group of 61 blood donors with a recombinant HIV-1. HIV-1-long terminal repeat (LTR)-driven luciferase activity was tested in the presence of plasmid expressing TRIM22 variants in 293T cells. The SNP genotyping was determined by TaqMan assay.

Results: HIV-1 replication was more efficient in PBMCs from donors with SNP-1G and SNP-2G than from those with SNP-1A and SNP-2C alleles. Consistently, TRIM22-GG enhanced, whereas TRIM22-AC restricted basal HIV-1 LTR-driven transcription. In vivo, SNP-1G homozygotes and A/G heterozygotes were more frequent in advanced progressors than in LTNPs [odds ratio (OR) = 2.072, P = 0.005] or in normal progressors (OR = 1.809, P = 0.022); in contrast, SNP-2 was not associated with any state of HIV-1 disease progression. Although SNP-2 distribution was similar among the groups, TRIM22-GG haplotype was found more frequently in advanced progressors than in LTNPs (P = 0.02).

Conclusion: TRIM22 genetic diversity affects HIV-1 replication in vitro and it is a potentially novel determinant of HIV-1 disease severity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/01.aids.0000432474.76873.5fDOI Listing
September 2013

A general strategy to endow natural fusion-protein-derived peptides with potent antiviral activity.

PLoS One 2012 16;7(5):e36833. Epub 2012 May 16.

PeptiPharma, Pomezia, Rome, Italy.

Fusion between the viral and target cell membranes is an obligatory step for the infectivity of all enveloped virus, and blocking this process is a clinically validated therapeutic strategy.Viral fusion is driven by specialized proteins which, although specific to each virus, act through a common mechanism, the formation of a complex between two heptad repeat (HR) regions. The HR regions are initially separated in an intermediate termed "prehairpin", which bridges the viral and cell membranes, and then fold onto each other to form a 6-helical bundle (6HB), driving the two membranes to fuse. HR-derived peptides can inhibit viral infectivity by binding to the prehairpin intermediate and preventing its transition to the 6HB.The antiviral activity of HR-derived peptides differs considerably among enveloped viruses. For weak inhibitors, potency can be increased by peptide engineering strategies, but sequence-specific optimization is time-consuming. In seeking ways to increase potency without changing the native sequence, we previously reported that attachment to the HR peptide of a cholesterol group ("cholesterol-tagging") dramatically increases its antiviral potency, and simultaneously increases its half-life in vivo. We show here that antiviral potency may be increased by combining cholesterol-tagging with dimerization of the HR-derived sequence, using as examples human parainfluenza virus, Nipah virus, and HIV-1. Together, cholesterol-tagging and dimerization may represent strategies to boost HR peptide potency to levels that in some cases may be compatible with in vivo use, possibly contributing to emergency responses to outbreaks of existing or novel viruses.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0036833PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3353973PMC
October 2012

HIV-1 envelope-dependent restriction of CXCR4-using viruses in child but not adult untransformed CD4+ T-lymphocyte lines.

Blood 2012 Mar 10;119(9):2013-23. Epub 2012 Jan 10.

AIDS Immunopathogenesis, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Via Olgettina No. 58, Milan, Italy.

Phytohemagglutin-stimulated child and adult leukocytes equally supported CCR5-dependent (R5) and CXCR4-dependent (X4) HIV-1 replication. In contrast, when phytohemagglutin-stimulated leukocytes from either healthy or congenitally immunodeficient children were cultured on feeder cells, they well supported R5, but not X4 HIV-1 replication, whereas both viruses equally spread in adult cells maintained in similar conditions. Both child and adult cells showed similar levels of proliferation and surface expression of CD4, CCR5, CXCR4, CD25, CD69, and HLA-DR. Lack of X4 HIV-1 replication in child versus adult cells was not caused by a differential expression of several known HIV-1 restriction factors. Similar levels of HIV DNA synthesis occurred in child cells infected with R5 and X4 viruses up to 48 hours after infection when R5 HIV-1 showed a significantly superior capacity to spread in culture than X4 virus. Cultured child cells well supported single round vescicular stomatitis virus-G pseudotyped virus replication, whereas superinfection of R5-infected cells with X4 HIV-1 (or vice versa) rescued the replication of this latter virus. Thus, child cells exposed to feeder cell culture represent a novel model system in which the superior capacity of R5 versus X4 viruses to spread can be investigated in primary, untransformed CD4(+) cells.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1182/blood-2010-12-325308DOI Listing
March 2012

Nef-specific CD45RA+ CD8+ T cells secreting MIP-1beta but not IFN-gamma are associated with nonprogressive HIV-1 infection.

AIDS Res Ther 2010 Jul 2;7:20. Epub 2010 Jul 2.

Institute of Virology, Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health, 85764 Neuherberg, Germany.

Background: Long-term survival of HIV-1 infected individuals is usually achieved by continuous administration of combination antiretroviral therapy (ART). An exception to this scenario is represented by HIV-1 infected nonprogressors (NP) which maintain relatively high circulating CD4+ T cells without clinical symptoms for several years in the absence of ART. Several lines of evidence indicate an important role of the T-cell response in the modulation of HIV-1 infection during the acute and chronic phase of the disease.

Results: We analyzed the functional and the differentiation phenotype of Nef- and Tat-specific CD8+ T cells in a cohort of HIV-1 infected NP in comparison to progressors, ART-treated seropositive individuals and individuals undergoing a single cycle of ART interruption. We observed that a distinctive feature of NP is the presence of Nef-specific CD45RA+ CD8+ T cells secreting MIP-1beta but not IFN-gamma. This population was present in 7 out of 11 NP. CD45RA+ IFN-gammaneg MIP-1beta+ CD8+ T cells were not detected in HIV-1 infected individuals under ART or withdrawing from ART and experiencing a rebounding viral replication. In addition, we detected Nef-specific CD45RA+ IFN-gammaneg MIP-1beta+ CD8+ T cells in only 1 out of 10 HIV-1 infected individuals with untreated progressive disease.

Conclusion: The novel antigen-specific CD45RA+ IFN-gammaneg MIP-1beta+ CD8+ T cell population represents a new candidate marker of long-term natural control of HIV-1 disease progression and a relevant functional T-cell subset in the evaluation of the immune responses induced by candidate HIV-1 vaccines.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1742-6405-7-20DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2909146PMC
July 2010

Whole blood fatty acid analysis with micromethod in cystic fibrosis and pulmonary disease.

J Cyst Fibros 2010 May 24;9(3):228-33. Epub 2010 Mar 24.

Università degli Studi di Milano, Dipartimento di Scienze Farmacologiche, via Balzaretti 9, 20133 Milano, Italy.

Objectives: To assess fatty acid (FA) profiles in whole blood of 90 cystic fibrosis patients (CF) and 30 control subjects (C) and to correlate FA changes to the severity of respiratory disease.

Methods: Whole blood FA were assessed by GC with a micromethod-based analysis.

Results: Saturated and monounsaturated FA are higher, whereas polyunsaturated FA are lower in CF versus C with reduction of total n-6 FA, 22:5n-3 and 22:6n-3 (DHA). The product of linoleic acid (LA) x DHA, proposed as a marker for the disease, is 30% lower in CF than in C. Correlations with the severity of the respiratory disease are present for different FA and for the LA x DHA product. There is a reduction of Delta5 desaturase activity in CF, greater in severe disease, suggesting a basic metabolic alteration.

Conclusions: The micromethod-based analysis of blood FA facilitates the assessment of the FA status while confirming alterations of FA profiles already reported in specific blood compartments of CF.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jcf.2010.03.002DOI Listing
May 2010

Restriction factors of retroviral replication: the example of Tripartite Motif (TRIM) protein 5 alpha and 22.

Amino Acids 2010 Jun 27;39(1):1-9. Epub 2009 Nov 27.

Viral Pathogens and Biosafety Unit, Division of Immunology, Transplantation and Infectious Diseases, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milan, Italy.

Viral tropism, replication, and pathogenesis are determined by multiple interactions between the pathogen and the host. In the case of retroviruses, and in particular, the human immunodeficiency virus, the specific interaction of the envelope protein with the host receptors and co-receptors is essential to gain entry in the cells. After entry, the success of retroviruses to complete their life cycle depends on a complex interplay between the virus and host proteins. Indeed, the cell environment is endowed with a number of factors that actively block distinct stage(s) in the microbial life cycle. Among these restriction factors, Tripartite Motif-5 alpha (TRIM5 alpha) has been extensively studied; however, other TRIM family members have been demonstrated to be anti-retroviral effector proteins. This article reviews, in particular, the current knowledge on the anti-retroviral effects of TRIM5 alpha and TRIM22.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00726-009-0393-xDOI Listing
June 2010