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1.  Novel small molecule EGFR inhibitors as candidate drugs in non-small cell lung cancer 
OncoTargets and therapy  2013;6:563-576.
In the last decade, better understanding of the role of epidermal growth factor receptor in the pathogenesis and progression of non-small cell lung cancer has led to a revolution in the work-up of these neoplasms. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors, such as erlotinib and gefitinib, have been approved for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer, demonstrating an improvement in progression-free and overall survival, particularly in patients harboring activating EGFR mutations. Nevertheless, despite initial responses and long-lasting remissions, resistance to tyrosine kinase inhibitors invariably develops, most commonly due to the emergence of secondary T790M mutations or to the amplification of mesenchymal–epithelial transition factor (c-Met), which inevitably leads to treatment failure. Several clinical studies are ongoing (, aimed to evaluate the efficacy and toxicity of combined approaches and to develop novel irreversible or multitargeted tyrosine kinase inhibitors and mutant-selective inhibitors to overcome such resistance. This review is an overview of ongoing Phase I, II, and III trials of novel small molecule epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors and combinations in non-small cell lung cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC3665567  PMID: 23723712
clinical trials; combined targeted therapy; epidermal growth factor receptor; non-small cell lung cancer; novel targeted agents; tyrosine kinase inhibitors
2.  Role of maspin in cancer 
Maspin (mammary serine protease inhibitor), is a member of the serine protease inhibitor/non-inhibitor superfamily. Its expression is down-regulated in breast, prostate, gastric and melanoma cancers but over-expressed in pancreatic, gallbladder, colorectal, and thyroid cancers suggesting that maspin may play different activities in different cell types. However, maspin expression seems to be correlated with better prognosis in prostate, bladder, lung, gastric, colorectal, head and neck, thyroid and melanoma cancer. In breast and ovarian cancer maspin significance is associated with its subcellular localization: nucleus maspin expression correlates with a good prognosis, whilst in pancreatic cancer it predicts a poor prognosis. Since tumor metastasis requires the detachment and invasion of tumor cells through the basement membrane and stroma, a selectively increased adhesion by the presence of maspin may contribute to the inhibition of tumor metastasis. Furthermore the different position of maspin inside the cell or its epigenetic modifications may explain the different behavior of the expression of maspin between tumors. The expression of maspin might be useful as a prognostic and possibly predictive factor for patients with particular types of cancer and data can guide physicians in selecting therapy. Its expression in circulating tumor cells especially in breast cancer, could be also useful in clinical practice along with other factors, such as age, comorbidities, blood examinations in order to select the best therapy to be carried out. Focusing on the malignancies in which maspin showed a positive prognostic value, therapeutic approaches studied so far aimed to re-activate a dormant tumor suppressor gene by designed transcription factors, to hit the system that inhibits the expression of maspin, to identify natural substances that can determine the activation and the expression of maspin or possible “molecules binds” to introduce maspin in cancer cell and gene therapy capable of up-regulating the maspin in an attempt to reduce primarily the risk of metastasis.
Further studies in these directions are necessary to better define the therapeutic implication of maspin.
PMCID: PMC3602294  PMID: 23497644
Maspin; Serine protease; Prognosis
3.  Diagnostic Value of Conjunctival Swab Sampling Associated with Nested PCR for Different Categories of Dogs Naturally Exposed to Leishmania infantum Infection 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2012;50(8):2651-2659.
The objective of the present study was to evaluate the diagnostic performance of a noninvasive assay, conjunctival swab (CS) nested-PCR (n-PCR), for diagnosing canine leishmaniasis (CanL) in different stages of infection in comparison to the performance of the indirect immunofluorescence antibody test (IFAT), lymph node microscopy, and buffy coat n-PCR. To this end, we performed a cross-sectional survey among 253 nonselected dogs in areas of endemicity in central Italy. We also performed a longitudinal study of CS n-PCR among 20 sick dogs undergoing antileishmanial treatment. In the first study, among the 72 animals that were positive by at least one test (28.45%), CS n-PCR showed the best relative performance (76.38%), with a high concordance in comparison to standard IFAT serology (κ = 0.75). The highest positivity rates using CS n-PCR were found in asymptomatic infected dogs (84.2%) and sick dogs (77.8%); however, the sensitivity of the assay was not associated with the presence of clinical signs. In the follow-up study on treated sick dogs, CS n-PCR was the most sensitive assay, with promising prognostic value for relapses. The univariate analysis of risk factors for CanL based on CS n-PCR findings showed a significant correlation with age (P = 0.012), breed size (P = 0.026), habitat (P = 4.9 × 10−4), and previous therapy (P = 0.014). Overall, the results indicated that CS n-PCR was the most sensitive assay of the less invasive diagnostic methods and could represent a good option for the early and simple diagnosis of CanL infection in asymptomatic animals and for monitoring relapses in drug-treated dogs.
PMCID: PMC3421491  PMID: 22649018
4.  Sharing of quorum-sensing signals and role of interspecies communities in a bacterial plant disease 
The ISME Journal  2011;5(12):1857-1870.
Pathogenic bacteria interact not only with the host organism but most probably also with the resident microbial flora. In the knot disease of the olive tree (Olea europaea), the causative agent is the bacterium Pseudomonas savastanoi pv. savastanoi (Psv). Two bacterial species, namely Pantoea agglomerans and Erwinia toletana, which are not pathogenic and are olive plant epiphytes and endophytes, have been found very often to be associated with the olive knot. We identified the chemical signals that are produced by strains of the three species isolated from olive knot and found that they belong to the N-acyl-homoserine lactone family of QS signals. The luxI/R family genes responsible for the production and response to these signals in all three bacterial species have been identified and characterized. Genomic knockout mutagenesis and in planta experiments showed that virulence of Psv critically depends on QS; however, the lack of signal production can be complemented by wild-type E. toletana or P. agglomerans. It is also apparent that the disease caused by Psv is aggravated by the presence of the two other bacterial species. In this paper we discuss the potential role of QS in establishing a stable consortia leading to a poly-bacterial disease.
PMCID: PMC3223305  PMID: 21677694
quorum sensing; interspecies; signaling
5.  Panitumumab: the evidence for its use in the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer 
Core Evidence  2010;5:61-76.
Panitumumab is the first fully human monoclonal antibody to Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) to enter clinical trials for the treatment of solid tumors. The anti-tumor activity of panitumumab has been tested in vitro and in vivo, and inhibition of tumor growth has been observed in numerous cancer models, particularly lung, kidney and colorectal (CRC). Preclinical and clinical studies have established a role for panitumumab in metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) refractory to multiple chemotherapeutic regimens. Based on these encouraging findings, panitumumab was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of patients with epidermal growth factor receptor-expressing mCRC refractory to fluoropyrimidine-, oxaliplatin-, and/or irinotecan-containing chemotherapeutic regimens. The improvement in progression free survival (PFS) and response rate (RR) produced by panitumumab monotherapy was significantly greater in patients with non mutated (wild-type) K-RAS than in those with mutant K-RAS. Therefore implementing routine K-RAS screening and limiting the use of EGFR inhibitors to patients with wild-type K-RAS appears the better strategy for select only the patients who could benefit from the therapy with panitumumab and also may have the potential for cost savings. The purpose of this review was to evaluate the patient-related, disease-related and economic-related evidence for the use of panitumumab in the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer in clinical practice.
PMCID: PMC2963923  PMID: 21042543
colorectal cancer; EGFR; K-RAS; panitumumab
6.  Correction: Binding of Protein Kinase Inhibitors to Synapsin I Inferred from Pair-Wise Binding Site Similarity Measurements 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(10):10.1371/annotation/95078306-dc3b-4441-b2b1-dd986b734570.
PMCID: PMC2953486
7.  Binding of Protein Kinase Inhibitors to Synapsin I Inferred from Pair-Wise Binding Site Similarity Measurements 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12214.
Predicting off-targets by computational methods is getting increasing importance in early drug discovery stages. We herewith present a computational method based on binding site three-dimensional comparisons, which prompted us to investigate the cross-reaction of protein kinase inhibitors with synapsin I, an ATP-binding protein regulating neurotransmitter release in the synapse. Systematic pair-wise comparison of the staurosporine-binding site of the proto-oncogene Pim-1 kinase with 6,412 druggable protein-ligand binding sites suggested that the ATP-binding site of synapsin I may recognize the pan-kinase inhibitor staurosporine. Biochemical validation of this hypothesis was realized by competition experiments of staurosporine with ATP-γ35S for binding to synapsin I. Staurosporine, as well as three other inhibitors of protein kinases (cdk2, Pim-1 and casein kinase type 2), effectively bound to synapsin I with nanomolar affinities and promoted synapsin-induced F-actin bundling. The selective Pim-1 kinase inhibitor quercetagetin was shown to be the most potent synapsin I binder (IC50  = 0.15 µM), in agreement with the predicted binding site similarities between synapsin I and various protein kinases. Other protein kinase inhibitors (protein kinase A and chk1 inhibitor), kinase inhibitors (diacylglycerolkinase inhibitor) and various other ATP-competitors (DNA topoisomerase II and HSP-90α inhibitors) did not bind to synapsin I, as predicted from a lower similarity of their respective ATP-binding sites to that of synapsin I. The present data suggest that the observed downregulation of neurotransmitter release by some but not all protein kinase inhibitors may also be contributed by a direct binding to synapsin I and phosphorylation-independent perturbation of synapsin I function. More generally, the data also demonstrate that cross-reactivity with various targets may be detected by systematic pair-wise similarity measurement of ligand-annotated binding sites.
PMCID: PMC2922380  PMID: 20808948
8.  J1-M267 Y lineage marks climate-driven pre-historical human displacements 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2009;17(11):1520-1524.
The present day distribution of Y chromosomes bearing the haplogroup J1 M267*G variant has been associated with different episodes of human demographic history, the main one being the diffusion of Islam since the Early Middle Ages. To better understand the modes and timing of J1 dispersals, we reconstructed the genealogical relationships among 282 M267*G chromosomes from 29 populations typed at 20 YSTRs and 6 SNPs. Phylogenetic analyses depicted a new genetic background consistent with climate-driven demographic dynamics occurring during two key phases of human pre-history: (1) the spatial expansion of hunter gatherers in response to the end of the late Pleistocene cooling phases and (2) the displacement of groups of foragers/herders following the mid-Holocene rainfall retreats across the Sahara and Arabia. Furthermore, J1 STR motifs previously used to trace Arab or Jewish ancestries were shown unsuitable as diagnostic markers for ethnicity.
PMCID: PMC2986692  PMID: 19367321
Y chromosome; haplogroup J1; human population history; Holocene
9.  Moors and Saracens in Europe: estimating the medieval North African male legacy in southern Europe 
To investigate the male genetic legacy of the Arab rule in southern Europe during medieval times, we focused on specific Northwest African haplogroups and identified evolutionary close STR-defined haplotypes in Iberia, Sicily and the Italian peninsula. Our results point to a higher recent Northwest African contribution in Iberia and Sicily in agreement with historical data. southern Italian regions known to have experienced long-term Arab presence also show an enrichment of Northwest African types. The forensic and genomic implications of these findings are discussed.
PMCID: PMC2947089  PMID: 19156170
Y chromosome; North Africa medieval legacy; southern Europe
10.  The Etruscan timeline: a recent Anatolian connection 
The origin of the Etruscans (the present day Tuscany, Italy), one of the most enigmatic non-Indo-European civilizations, is under intense controversy. We found novel genetic evidences on the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) establishing a genetic link between Anatolia and the ancient Etruria. By way of complete mtDNA genome sequencing of a novel autochthonous Tuscan branch of haplogroup U7 (namely U7a2a), we have estimated an historical time frame for the arrival of Anatolian lineages to Tuscany ranging from 1.1±0.1 to 2.3±0.4 kya B.P.
PMCID: PMC2986270  PMID: 19050723
mtDNA; haplogroup; complete genome; Tuscany; Etruscans
11.  Post-traumatic stress disorder among people exposed to the Ventotene street disaster in Rome 
To test five hypotheses on Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): 1) Is PTSD the most prevalent disorder after trauma? 2) Is the proximity to the disaster related to the risk of PTSD? 3) Is PTSD associated with child mourning or separation, previous stress, or familiarity for psychiatric disorders? 4) Does the exposition to trauma increase substance abuse or somatization? 5) Can episodic trauma cause long-lasting psychiatric morbidity?
Clinical assessment of subjects exposed to an explosion in a building caused by a gas-leak. Best estimate clinical diagnoses were made according to DSM-IV-TR criteria. The Zung Depression Rating Scale, the Zung Anxiety Rating Scale, and the Clinician Administered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Scale were used in the clinical assessment. Statistical analysis was performed by means of t-test with Bonferroni's correction on continuous variables and χ2 or Fisher test on categorical variables.
PTSD was the most prevalent disorder after trauma, diagnosed in 32 (36.8%) subjects. The subjects who had not seen dead or injured people were more likely to receive no psychiatric diagnosis. Civil status, parenthood, death of relatives in the disaster, personal injuries, history of child mourning or separation, of previous stress, as well as familiarity for any psychiatric disorder or substance use disorder were not related with the rate of ascertained psychiatric diagnoses. Nearly two years after trauma, most of patients who had suffered PTSD still met PTSD criteria.
The 1st and the 5th hypotheses were corroborated, the 3rd and the 4th hypotheses were not confirmed. The 2nd hypothesis was partially confirmed.
PMCID: PMC2294122  PMID: 18321382
12.  Drought meets acid: three new genera in a dothidealean clade of extremotolerant fungi 
Studies in Mycology  2008;61:1-20.
Fungal strains isolated from rocks and lichens collected in the Antarctic ice-free area of the Victoria Land, one of the coldest and driest habitats on earth, were found in two phylogenetically isolated positions within the subclass Dothideomycetidae. They are here reported as new genera and species, Recurvomyces mirabilis gen. nov., sp. nov. and Elasticomyces elasticus gen. nov., sp. nov. The nearest neighbours within the clades were other rock-inhabiting fungi from dry environments, either cold or hot. Plant-associated Mycosphaerella-like species, known as invaders of leathery leaves in semi-arid climates, are also phylogenetically related with the new taxa. The clusters are also related to the halophilic species Hortaea werneckii, as well as to acidophilic fungi. One of the latter, able to grow at pH 0, is Scytalidium acidophilum, which is ascribed here to the newly validated genus Acidomyces. The ecological implications of this finding are discussed.
PMCID: PMC2610311  PMID: 19287523
Acidophilic fungi; Antarctica; black fungi; extremotolerance; halophilic fungi; ITS; lichens; phylogeny; rock-inhabiting fungi; SSU; taxonomy
13.  Resistance of Antarctic black fungi and cryptoendolithic communities to simulated space and Martian conditions 
Studies in Mycology  2008;61:99-109.
Dried colonies of the Antarctic rock-inhabiting meristematic fungi Cryomyces antarcticus CCFEE 515, CCFEE 534 and C. minteri CCFEE 5187, as well as fragments of rocks colonized by the Antarctic cryptoendolithic community, were exposed to a set of ground-based experiment verification tests (EVTs) at the German Aerospace Center (DLR, Köln, Germany). These were carried out to test the tolerance of these organisms in view of their possible exposure to space conditions outside of the International Space Station (ISS). Tests included single or combined simulated space and Martian conditions. Responses were analysed both by cultural and microscopic methods. Thereby, colony formation capacities were measured and the cellular viability was assessed using live/dead dyes FUN 1 and SYTOX Green. The results clearly suggest a general good resistance of all the samples investigated. C. minteri CCFEE 5187, C. antarcticus CCFEE 515 and colonized rocks were selected as suitable candidates to withstand space flight and long-term permanence in space on the ISS in the framework of the LIchens and Fungi Experiments (LIFE programme, European Space Agency).
PMCID: PMC2610303  PMID: 19287532
Astrobiology; cryptoendolithic community; fungi; ground-based experiments; lithopanspermia; panspermia; space conditions; stress resistance; viability
14.  Protein-protein interactions and protein modules in the control of neurotransmitter release. 
Information transfer among neurons is operated by neurotransmitters stored in synaptic vesicles and released to the extracellular space by an efficient process of regulated exocytosis. Synaptic vesicles are organized into two distinct functional pools, a large reserve pool in which vesicles are restrained by the actin-based cytoskeleton, and a quantitatively smaller releasable pool in which vesicles approach the presynaptic membrane and eventually fuse with it on stimulation. Both synaptic vesicle trafficking and neurotransmitter release depend on a precise sequence of events that include release from the reserve pool, targeting to the active zone, docking, priming, fusion and endocytotic retrieval of synaptic vesicles. These steps are mediated by a series of specific interactions among cytoskeletal, synaptic vesicle, presynaptic membrane and cytosolic proteins that, by acting in concert, promote the spatial and temporal regulation of the exocytotic machinery. The majority of these interactions are mediated by specific protein modules and domains that are found in many proteins and are involved in numerous intracellular processes. In this paper, the possible physiological role of these multiple protein-protein interactions is analysed, with ensuing updating and clarification of the present molecular model of the process of neurotransmitter release.
PMCID: PMC1692491  PMID: 10212473
15.  Factors affecting the therapeutic choice in patients with multivessel coronary artery disease. The Studio Lombardo Angiografia Multivasali (SLAM) Study Group. 
Heart  1997;77(5):443-448.
OBJECTIVE: To assess how clinical and angiographic findings are related to the decision to carry out coronary angioplasty (PTCA) or coronary bypass grafting in patients with multivessel coronary artery disease. DESIGN: Prospective survey carried out in 14 centres in the Lombardia region of Italy. PATIENTS: 1468 consecutive patients under going coronary arteriography for known or suspected ischaemic heart disease between May and October 1994, who were found to have multivessel coronary artery disease. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Multivariate analysis was undertaken using stepwise logistic regression to identify the clinical and angiographic variables correlated with revascularisation (v medical treatment) in all of patients, and with surgery (v angioplasty) in the subset of revascularised patients. RESULTS: In all patients the clinical decision after coronary arteriography was made by physicians of each participating centre on the basis of their experience and clinical judgment: 53% of patients had bypass surgery, 28% had PTCA, and 19% continued medical treatment. The choice of a revascularisation procedure was directly related to a clinical diagnosis of unstable angina (P < < 0.001), the presence of left anterior descending artery disease (P < < 0.001), and to an ejection fraction > or = 40% (P < < 0.001), and inversely related to history of previous coronary bypass surgery (P < < 0.001). In revascularised patients, bypass surgery was the preferred treatment in patients with left anterior descending artery disease (P < < 0.001), three-vessel disease (P < < 0.001), and in those with at least one occluded vessel (P = 0.008). The choice of PTCA was significantly related to history of previous PTCA (P < < 0.001) or coronary bypass surgery (P < < 0.001), to a clinical diagnosis of non-Q wave myocardial infarction (P = 0.002), and to the possibility of implanting an intracoronary stent (P = 0.01). CONCLUSIONS: Bypass surgery is still the most widely used treatment for patients with multivessel coronary artery disease. This analysis provides a basis for comparison with future developments in the treatment of such patients. Further advancements in PTCA technology are needed to tilt the balance in favour of this less invasive procedure.
PMCID: PMC484767  PMID: 9196415

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