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1.  Treatment With Lenalidomide Modulates T-Cell Immunophenotype and Cytokine Production in Patients With Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia 
Cancer  2011;117(17):3999-4008.
Lenalidomide, an immunomodulatory agent, has activity in lymphoproliferative disorders. The authors, therefore, evaluated its effects on T-cell immunophenotype and cytokine production in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
To study the immunomodulatory effects of lenalidomide in CLL, the authors recruited 24 patients with untreated CLL enrolled in a phase 2 clinical trial of lenalidomide and obtained peripheral blood specimens for immunologic studies consisting of enumeration of T cells and assessing their ability to synthesize cytokines after activation through T-cell receptor (TCR).
After 3 cycles of therapy, patients had a significant reduction in percentage (%) and absolute lymphocyte count (ALC) and an increase in percentage of T cells, percentage of activated CD8+ T cells producing IFN-γ, and percentage of regulatory T (TR) cells when compared with their respective levels before treatment. After 15 cycles of treatment, responder patients had significant reduction in percentage of lymphocytes and ALC, percentage of activated CD4+ T cells producing IL-2, IFN-γ, or TNF-α, and percentage of TR cells when compared with their perspective levels after 3 cycles of treatment. Furthermore, the numbers of activated CD4+ T cells producing IL-2, IFN-γ, or TNF-α, activated CD8+ T cells producing IFN-γ, and TR cells normalized to the range of healthy subjects.
Treatment with lenalidomide resulted in the normalization of functional T-cell subsets in responders, suggesting that lenalidomide may modulate cell-mediated immunity in patients with CLL.
PMCID: PMC4349201  PMID: 21858802
chronic lymphocytic leukemia; immunomodulatory agents; T cells; cytokines
2.  Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition and Stem Cell Markers in Patients with HER2-Positive Metastatic Breast Cancer 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2012;11(11):2526-2534.
Currently, there is extensive information about circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and their prognostic value; however, little is known about other characteristics of these cells. In this prospective study, we assessed the gene transcripts of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition inducing transcription factors (EMT-TFs) and cancer stem cell features in HER2+ metastatic breast cancer (MBC) patients. Epithelial cells were enriched from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) using antibody-coated anti-CD326 antibody (CD326+) magnetic beads, and the residual CD326− PBMCs were further depleted of leukocytes using anti-CD45 antibody-coated magnetic beads (CD326−CD45−). RNA was extracted from all cell fractions, reverse transcribed to cDNA, and subjected to quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) to detect EMT-TFs (TWIST1, SNAIL1, ZEB1, and TG2) as a measure of CTCs undergoing EMT (EMT-CTCs). Additionally, PBMCs were analyzed using multi-parameter flow cytometry for ALDH activity and cancer stem cells (CSCs) that express CD24, CD44, and CD133. Twenty-eight patients were included in this study. At least one EMT-TF mRNA was elevated in the CTCs of 88.2% of patients and in the CD326−CD45− cell fraction of 60.7% of patients. The CD326−CD45− fraction of patients with elevated SNAIL1 and ZEB1 transcripts also had a higher percentage of ALDH+/CD133+ cells in their blood than did patients with normal SNAIL1 and ZEB1 expression (P=0.038). Our data indicate that HER2+ MBC patients have EMT-CTCs. Moreover, an enrichment of cancer stem cells was found in CD326−CD45− cells. Additional studies are needed to determine whether EMT-CTCs and CSCs have prognostic value in HER2+ MBC patients treated with trastuzumab-based therapy.
PMCID: PMC3500676  PMID: 22973057
circulating tumor cells; epithelial to mesenchymal transition; stem cells; HER2; CD133; metastatic breast cancer
3.  Associations of Cytokines, Sleep Patterns, and Neurocognitive Function in Youth with HIV Infection 
Youth infected with HIV at birth often have sleep disturbances, neurocognitive deficits, and abnormal psychosocial function which are associated with and possibly resulted from elevated blood cytokine levels that may lead to a decreased quality of life. To identify molecular pathways that might be associated with these disorders, we evaluated 38 HIV-infected and 35 uninfected subjects over 18-months for intracellular cytokine levels, sleep patterns and duration of sleep, and neurodevelopmental abilities. HIV infection was significantly associated with alterations of intracellular pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNF-α, IFN-γ, IL-12), sleep factors (total time asleep and daytime sleep patterns), and neurocognitive factors (parent and patient reported problems with socio-emotional, behavioral, and executive functions; working memory-mental fatigue; verbal memory; and sustained concentration and vigilance. By better defining the relationships between HIV infection, sleep disturbances, and poor psychosocial behavior and neurocognition, it may be possible to provide targeted pharmacologic and procedural interventions to improve these debilitating conditions.
PMCID: PMC3377781  PMID: 22659030
pediatric HIV infection; intracellular cytokines; sleep behavior; neurodevelopment; neurocognition; path analysis
4.  Expression of Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition-Inducing Transcription Factors in Primary Breast Cancer: The Effect of Neoadjuvant Therapy 
Epithelial cancer cells are likely to undergo epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT) prior to entering the peripheral circulation. By undergoing EMT, circulating tumor cells (CTCs) lose epithelial markers and may escape detection by conventional methods. Therefore, we conducted a pilot study to investigate mRNA transcripts of EMT-inducing transcription factors (TFs) in tumor cells from the peripheral blood (PB) of primary breast cancer (PBC) patients.
Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were isolated from 52 stages I–III PBC patients and 30 healthy donors (HD) and sequentially depleted of EpCAM+ cells and CD45+ leukocytes, henceforth referred to as CD45−. The expression levels of EMT-inducing TFs (TWIST1, SNAIL1, SLUG, ZEB1, and FOXC2) in the CD45− cells were determined using qRT-PCR. The highest level of expression by the CD45− cell fraction of HD was used as “cut off” to determine if samples from PBC patients overexpressed any EMT-inducing TFs. In total, 15.4% of PBC patients overexpressed at least one of the EMT-inducing TF transcripts. Overexpression of any EMT-inducing TF transcripts was more likely to be detected in PBC patients who received neoadjuvant therapies (NAT) than patients who received no NAT (P = 0.003). Concurrently, CTCs were detected in 7 out of 38 (18.4%) patients by CellSearch® and 15 out of 42 (35.7%) patients by AdnaTest™. There was no association between the presence of CTCs measured by CellSearch® or AdnaTest™.
In summary, our results demonstrate that CTCs with EMT phenotype may occur in the peripheral circulation of PBC patients and NAT is unable to eliminate CTCs undergoing EMT.
PMCID: PMC3169728  PMID: 21387303
circulating tumor cells; epithelial-mesenchymal transition; primary breast cancer; neoadjuvant therapy
5.  Primary breast cancer patients with high risk clinicopathologic features have high percentages of bone marrow epithelial cells with ALDH activity and CD44+CD24lo cancer stem cell phenotype 
Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are purported to be epithelial tumor cells expressing CD44+CD24lo that exhibit aldehyde dehydrogenase activity (Aldefluor+). We hypothesized that if CSCs are responsible for tumor dissemination, disseminated cells in the bone marrow (BM) would be positive for putative breast CSC markers. Therefore, we assessed the presence of Aldefluor+ epithelial (CD326+CD45dim) cells for the presence of the CD44+CD24lo phenotype in BM of patients with primary breast cancer (PBC).
BM aspirates were collected at the time of surgery from 66 patients with PBC. Thirty patients received neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NACT) prior to aspiration. BM was analyzed for Aldefluor+ epithelial cells with or without CD44+CD24lo expression by flow cytometry. BM aspirates from 3 healthy donors (HD) were subjected to identical processing and analyses and served as controls.
Patients with triple-receptor-negative (TN) tumors had a significantly higher median percentage of CD44+CD24lo CSC within Aldefluor+ epithelial cell population than patients with other immunohistochemical subtypes (P=0.018). Patients with TN tumors or with pN2 or higher pathologic nodal status were more likely to have a proportion of CD44+CD24lo CSC within Aldefluor+ epithelial cell population above the highest level of HD. Furthermore, patients who received NACT were more likely to have percentages of Aldefluor+ epithelial cells greater than the highest level of HD (P=0.004).
The percentage of CD44+CD24lo CSC in the BM is higher in PBC patients with high risk tumor features. The selection or enrichment of Aldefluor+ epithelial cells by NACT may represent an opportunity to target these cells with novel therapies.
PMCID: PMC3116032  PMID: 21334874
6.  Mesenchymal stem cells expressing GD2 and CD271 correlate with breast cancer-initiating cells in bone marrow 
Cancer Biology & Therapy  2011;11(9):812-815.
The bone marrow microenvironment is considered a critical component in the dissemination and fate of cancer cells in the metastatic process. We explored the possible correlation between bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (BM-MSC) and disseminated breast cancer-initiating cells (BCIC) in primary breast cancer patients.
The percentages of BCIC (Aldefluor+CD326+CD44+CD24−) correlated with the percentages of BM-MSC, either CD45−GD2+CD200+CD271+ (Kedall's τ = 0.684, p = 0.004) or CD45−GD2+CD271+ in the bone marrow (Kedall's τ = 0.464, p = 0.042).
Experimental Design
Bone marrow mononuclear cells (BM-MNC) were collected at the time of primary surgery in 12 breast cancer patients. BM-MNC was immunophenotyped and BCIC was defined as epithelial cells (CD326+CD45−) with a “stem-like” phenotype (CD44+CD24low/−, ALDH activity). BM-MSC was defined as CD34−CD45− cells that co-expressed GD2, CD271 and/or CD200 within CD326-depleted BM-MNC.
There was a positive correlation between mesenchymal stem cells expressing GD2 and CD271 and breast cancer-initiating cells in BM of patients with primary breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3230296  PMID: 21358274
mesenchymal stem cells; bone marrow; microenvironment; cancer-initiating cells; cancer stem cells
7.  Prognostic Value of EMT-Circulating Tumor Cells in Metastatic Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing High-Dose Chemotherapy with Autologous Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation 
Journal of Cancer  2012;3:369-380.
Background: Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are an independent prognostic factor in metastatic breast cancer (MBC) patients treated by conventional dose chemotherapy. The aim of this study was to determine the role of CTCs and CTCs undergoing epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in metastatic breast cancer. We used the platform of high-dose chemotherapy (HDCT) and autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT) to study the CTCs and CTCs with EMT.
Patients and methods: CTCs were enumerated in 21 MBC patients before apheresis and 1 month after AHSCT. CD34-depleted apheresis products were analyzed for CD326+ epithelial and Aldefluor+ cancer stem cells (CSC) by flow cytometry and were depleted of CD45+ cells and assessed for EMT-inducing transcription factors (EMT-TF) by quantitative RT-PCR.
Results: Patients with ≥ 5 CTCs/7.5 mL of peripheral blood 1 month after AHSCT had shorter progression-free survival (PFS) (P=0.02) and overall survival (OS) (P=0.02). Patients with apheresis products containing high percentages of CD326+ epithelial cells or overexpressing EMT-TF had shorter PFS. In multivariate analysis, low percentage of CD326+ epithelial cells and response to HDCT with AHSCT were associated with longer PFS, whereas lower CTCs after AHSCT was associated with longer OS. High CTCs, 1 month after AHSCT correlated with shorter PFS and OS in MBC patients undergoing HDCT and AHSCT, while CTCs with EMT and CSCs phenotype in apheresis products are associated with relapse.
Conclusion: Our data suggest that CTC and CTCs with EMT are prognostic in MBC patients undergoing HDCT followed by AHSCT.
PMCID: PMC3471078  PMID: 23074378
metastatic breast cancer; circulating tumor cells; epithelial-mesenchymal transition; high-dose chemotherapy; autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.
8.  Phase I Dose Escalation Study of Sodium Stibogluconate (SSG), a Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase Inhibitor, Combined with Interferon Alpha for Patients with Solid Tumors 
Journal of Cancer  2011;2:81-89.
Purpose: Sodium stibogluconate (SSG), a small molecule inhibitor of protein tyrosine phosphatases, combined with IFN-alpha-2b (IFN-α) inhibited solid tumor cell line growth in vitro. We conducted a phase I clinical trial with SSG plus IFN-α in advanced cancer patients to assess tolerance, maximum tolerated dose (MTD) and immune system effects.
Experimental Design: SSG was administered intravenously alone for five days of week 1, cycle 1 (21 days per cycle) and together with IFN-α 2b s (3 million units sc TIW) in week 2, and after a rest during week 3, on a 2-week on/1-week off cycle. SSG dose levels were 400, 600, 900, 1125, and 1350 mg/m2.
Results: Twenty-four patients were studied. Common toxicities included asymptomatic elevated serum lipase, thrombocytopenia, fatigue, fever, chills and anemia. The dose-limiting toxicities (DLT) were hypokalemia, thrombocytopenia, fatigue, pancreatitis and skin rash. The MTD was 900 mg/m2 SSG and IFN-α, 3 million units TIW. At this dose, patients had a significantly lower number of regulatory T cells (TR Cells) (p = 0.012), myeloid dendritic cells (mDC) (p = 0.028); higher percentage of natural killer (NK) cells that synthesized perforin (p = 0.046) and of plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDC) that secreted IFN-α (p = 0.018) in response to activation through toll-like receptor (TLR) 7 and TLR 8 by CL097, the highly water-soluble derivative of the imidazoquinoline compound R848.
Conclusions: SSG in combination with IFN-α 2b was well tolerated and augmented cellular immune parameters.
PMCID: PMC3039225  PMID: 21326629
sodium stibogluconate; phase 1; interferon alpha; immunity; cancer
9.  A randomized study comparing chemotherapy followed by G-CSF alone or in combination with GM-CSF for mobilization of peripheral blood stem cells in patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas 
Granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) and granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) are the two most commonly used cytokines for mobilization of stem cells in patients undergoing high dose chemotherapy with stem cell support. Both cytokines increase the peripheral blood white blood cell count and the stem cell count but there are other differences in the stem cell products mobilized by G-CSF versus those mobilized with GM-CSF. Generally higher numbers of dendritic cells are mobilized with GM-CSF than by G-CSF. The primary objective of this randomized study was to evaluate the safety and efficacy of chemotherapy plus G-CSF versus chemotherapy plus G-CSF and GM-CSF in patients with B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) who were undergoing chemo-mobilization. Secondary objectives were to determine the expression of various dendritic cell subsets in the two groups and to determine the incidence of disease progression or relapse at 12 months.
We prospectively evaluated 84 patients with relapsed NHL who were candidates for high dose therapy (HDT). All patients underwent chemo-mobilization using ifosfamide, etoposide, and rituximab. All patients were randomized in an adaptive manner to receive either G-CSF or G-CSF plus GM-CSF (G+GM) starting 24 hours after completion of chemotherapy and continuing until completion of apheresis. The stem cell yield/kg, the number of apheresis procedures needed in the two groups, and the toxicity were recorded. We also enumerated dendritic cell subsets, myeloid DCs (mDC) and plasmacytoid DCs (pDC), in apheresis products and in peripheral blood (PB) samples collected pre-chemotherapy. The data were expressed as a percentage of peripheral blood mononuclear cells.
A total of 84 patients were treated. Forty-three patients received G-CSF and 41 received G+GM. Both regimens were well tolerated. The median CD34+ cell dose collected was similar in the two groups. A total of 54 (G-CSF N = 25 and G+GM N = 29) paired samples from baseline and post-apheresis were available for analysis of dendritic cell subsets. There was no significant difference in the percentages of mDC subsets between baseline and post-apheresis collected with G-CSF or G+GM mobilization. However, there was a significant increase in the percentage of pDC subsets in the G-CSF alone when compared to the G+GM arm (P = 0.002). Furthermore, the ratio of mDC and pDC was significantly lower after mobilization with G-CSF versus G+GM (P = 0.029).
Addition of GM-CSF to G-CSF to the mobilization regimen resulted in lower percentages of pDC in the apheresis products when compared to those with G-CSF alone. This shifts the mDC/pDC ratio in the apheresis grafts in favor of mDC in the combination arm. However, these differences did not seem to impact the clinical outcomes in the two groups. ( Identifier: NCT00499343).
PMCID: PMC3262333  PMID: 22282683
lymphoma; filgrastim; sargramostim; stem cell mobilization
10.  Serum IL-6 predicts the development of multiple symptoms at nadir of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation 
Cancer  2008;113(8):2102-2109.
During the time of lowest white blood cell count (nadir) of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT), cancer patients suffer from tremendous symptom burden related to therapy that requires intensive patient care. However, the mechanism underlying the development of multiple symptoms has not been established.
To explore the role of inflammatory cytokines in the development of treatment-related symptoms, we studied dynamic changes in serum concentrations of inflammatory cytokines (interleukin [IL]-6, IL-8, soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor 1 [sTNF-R1], IL-1 receptor antagonist [IL-1RA], and IL-12p40p70) and symptoms from pretherapy throughout the first 30 days of allo-HSCT in 30 patients with acute myelogenous leukemia or myelodysplastic syndrome. We measured multiple symptoms repeatedly using the M. D. Anderson Symptom Inventory (MDASI). Mixed-effects modeling was used to analyze longitudinal data.
In response to conditioning and stem-cell infusion, IL-6 and the severity of multiple symptoms increased rapidly and peaked at nadir, the time of lowest white blood cell count. From baseline to nadir (approximately day 8 posttransplantation), increase in IL-6 was significantly associated with worsening of the most severe symptoms (fatigue, poor appetite, pain, drowsiness, dry mouth, and disturbed sleep; P < .01). During the first 30 days after transplantation, increases in IL-6 (P < .001) and sTNF-R1 (P < .05) significantly predicted the increasing severity of these symptoms.
These results suggest that release of systemic inflammatory cytokines, mainly IL-6, corresponds to an increase in treatment-related multiple-symptom burden during the nadir period of allo-HSCT.
PMCID: PMC2633777  PMID: 18792065
treatment-related symptoms; inflammatory cytokines; allogeneic HSCT; MDASI; nadir; longitudinal study; mixed-effects modeling
11.  Depressed Type 1 Cytokine Synthesis by Superantigen-Activated CD4+ T Cells of Women with Human Papillomavirus-Related High-Grade Squamous Intraepithelial Lesions 
Carcinoma of the cervix is causally related to infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV), and T cells play a pivotal role in the immune response of the host to rid itself of HPV infection. Therefore, we assessed the T-cell function of women with HPV-related cervical neoplasia against a superantigen, Staphylococcus enterotoxin B (SEB). Each woman provided a cervical brush specimen for HPV DNA testing and Papanicolaou (Pap) smears for the staging of cervical lesions. They also provided a blood specimen for determination of the ability of CD4+ T and CD8+ T cells to synthesize Th1 (interleukin-2 [IL-2], gamma interferon [IFN-γ], and tumor necrosis factor alpha [TNF-α]) and Th2 (IL-10) cytokines in response to activation with SEB. Compared with control subjects with self-attested negative Pap smears, women with high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (HSIL) had significantly lower percentages of activated CD4+ T cells that produced IL-2 (P = 0.045), IFN-γ (P = 0.040), and TNF-α (P = 0.015) and a significantly lower percentage of activated CD8+ T cells that produced IL-2 (P < 0.01). These data indicate that women with HPV-related cervical HSIL show a decrease in Th1 cytokine production by activated CD4+ T cells and suggested that compromised T-helper functions may negatively impact the function of cytotoxic CD8+ T cells.
PMCID: PMC371191  PMID: 15013969
12.  Production of Interferons and β-Chemokines by Placental Trophoblasts of HIV-1-Infected Women 
Objective: The mechanism whereby the placental cells of a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1-infected mother protect the fetus from HIV-1 infection is unclear. Interferons (IFNs) inhibit the replication of viruses by acting at various stages of the life cycle and may play a role in protecting against vertical transmission of HIV-1. In addition the β-chemokines RANTES (regulated on activation T cell expressed and secreted), macrophage inflammatory protein-1-α (MIP-1α), and MIP-1β can block HIV-1 entry into cells by preventing the binding of the macrophage-trophic HIV-1 strains to the coreceptorCCR5. In this study the production of IFNs and β-chemokines by placental trophoblasts of HIV-1-infected women who were HIV-1 non-transmitters was examined.
Methods: Placental trophoblastic cells were isolated from 29 HIV-1-infected and 10 control subjects. Supernatants of trophoblast cultures were tested for the production of IFNs and β-chemokines by enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Additionally, HIV-1-gag and IFN-β transcripts were determined by a semi-quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay.
Results: All placental trophoblasts of HIV-1-infected women contained HIV-1-gag transcripts. There were no statistical differences in the median constitutive levels of IFN-α and IFN-γ produced by trophoblasts of HIV-1- infected and control subjects. In contrast, trophoblasts of HIV-1-infected women constitutively produced significantly higher levels of IFN-β protein than trophoblasts of control subjects. Furthermore, the median levels of β-chemokines produced by trophoblasts of HIV-infected and control women were similar.
Conclusions: Since there was no correlation between the placental HIV load and the production of interferons or β-chemokines, the role of trophoblast-derived IFNs and β-chemokines in protecting the fetus from infection with HIV-1 is not clear.
PMCID: PMC1784647  PMID: 11495560
13.  Dysregulated Synthesis of Intracellular Type 1 and Type 2 Cytokines by T Cells of Patients with Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma 
Mycosis fungoides (MF) and Sezary syndrome (SS) are the two main clinical entities of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL). As the disease progresses from MF to SS, a switch from a type 1 (interleukin [IL]-2 and gamma interferon [IFN-γ]) to a type 2 (IL-4) cytokine production profile occurs. Although roles for type 1 and type 2 cytokines in the pathogenesis of CTCL have been proposed, the cellular origins of these cytokines are unclear. Using flow cytometry to identify individual T-cell subsets, we studied cytokine synthesis by the T cells of 13 patients with SS and 12 with MF and 9 hematologically healthy donors. Upon activation with phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA), the numbers of T cells synthesizing IL-2 were similar for all study groups. Whereas the predominant T-cell producing IL-2 in healthy donors and in those with MF was CD7+, in patients with SS, it was CD7−. Although the number of IL-4+ CD4+ T cells was low for all study groups, there was a significantly higher number of IL-4+ CD8+ T cells in patients with MF than in those with SS or healthy donors. There was a decline in the number of IFN-γ-producing T cells in CTCL donors compared to that in healthy donors. More importantly, there was a significant decrease in the number of IFN-γ-producing T cells with disease progression from MF to SS. The inability of these T cells to synthesize IFN-γ may have prognostic value in CTCL, since it may be responsible for the progression of the disease from MF to SS.
PMCID: PMC95664  PMID: 9874668

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