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1.  Sulforaphane induces apoptosis in rhabdomyosarcoma and restores TRAIL-sensitivity in the aggressive alveolar subtype leading to tumor elimination in mice 
Cancer Biology & Therapy  2014;15(9):1219-1225.
Rhadbomyosarcoma (RMS) is the most common soft-tissue sarcoma in children and is subdivided in the embryonal (ERMS) and alveolar (ARMS) subtypes, the latter being associated with the worst prognosis.
We report that sulforaphane (SFN), a broccoli-derived anticancer isothiocyanate, causes dose- and time-dependent growth inhibition and apoptosis in both ERMS and ARMS cells.
In ARMS, SFN induced the modulation of expression of crucial genes and proteins: mRNA and protein levels of PAX3-FKHR, MYCN, and MET decreased, while those of p21 and TRAIL-receptor DR5 (but not DR4) increased.
Since DR5 expression increased specifically in ARMS, we treated ARMS cells with TRAIL, SFN, or their combination. While ARMS cells (RH30 and RH4) proved to be TRAIL-resistant, SFN restored their sensitivity to TRAIL-induced cell-growth inhibition, leading to a stronger effect in combination with TRAIL.
ARMS cells transfected with siDR5 showed that SFN-induced DR5 acts as a key regulator, being directly related to the TRAIL-induced cell-growth inhibition.
The in vivo anti-tumor activity of SFN and TRAIL was evaluated in a xenograft murine model of ARMS through microPET. The results showed that the systemic treatment (3 wk) of mice with SFN or TRAIL as single agents only delayed tumor evolution, while the combined treatment of SFN and TRAIL led to tumor elimination.
These findings indicate that SFN triggers the apoptotic pathway in both alveolar and embryonal rhabdomyosarcomas and that combined treatment with SFN and TRAIL might be a promising therapy for the aggressive alveolar subtype.
PMCID: PMC4128864  PMID: 24971463
rhabdomyosarcoma; alveolar; sulforaphane; TRAIL; combination therapy
2.  Therapeutic targeting of Polo-like kinase-1 and Aurora kinases in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia 
Cell Cycle  2014;13(14):2237-2247.
Polo-like kinases (PLKs) and Aurora kinases (AKs) act as key cell cycle regulators in healthy human cells. In cancer, these protein kinases are often overexpressed and dysregulated, thus contributing to uncontrolled cell proliferation and growth. T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is a heterogeneous malignancy arising in the thymus from T-cell progenitors. Primary chemoresistant and relapsed T-ALL patients have yet a poor outcome, therefore novel therapies, targeting signaling pathways important for leukemic cell proliferation, are required. Here, we demonstrate the potential therapeutic effects of BI6727, MK-5108, and GSK1070916, three selective inhibitors of PLK1, AK-A, and AK-B/C, respectively, in a panel of T-ALL cell lines and primary cells from T-ALL patients. The drugs were both cytostatic and cytotoxic to T-ALL cells by inducing G2/M-phase arrest and apoptosis. The drugs retained part of their pro-apoptotic activity in the presence of MS-5 bone marrow stromal cells. Moreover, we document for the first time that BI6727 perturbed both the PI3K/Akt/mTORC2 and the MEK/ERK/mTORC1 signaling pathways, and that a combination of BI6727 with specific inhibitors of the aforementioned pathways (MK-2206, CCI-779) displayed significantly synergistic cytotoxic effects. Taken together, our findings indicate that PLK1 and AK inhibitors display the potential for being employed in innovative therapeutic strategies for improving T-ALL patient outcome.
PMCID: PMC4111679  PMID: 24874015
polo-like kinases; Aurora kinases; T-ALL; cell cycle; apoptosis; caspases; PI3K/Akt/mTORC2; MEK/ERK/mTORC1
3.  Identification of the NUP98-PHF23 fusion gene in pediatric cytogenetically normal acute myeloid leukemia by whole-transcriptome sequencing 
The genomic landscape of children with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) who do not carry any cytogenetic abnormality (CN-AML) is particularly heterogeneous and challenging, being characterized by different clinical outcomes. To provide new genetic insights into this AML subset, we analyzed through RNA-seq 13 pediatric CN-AML cases, corroborating our findings in an independent cohort of 168 AML patients enrolled in the AIEOP AML 2002/01 study. We identified a chimeric transcript involving NUP98 and PHF23, resulting from a cryptic t(11;17)(p15;p13) translocation, demonstrating, for the first time, that NUP98-PHF23 is a novel recurrent (2.6 %) abnormality in pediatric CN-AML.
PMCID: PMC4467064  PMID: 26066811
NUP98 gene fusions; Pediatric acute myeloid leukemia; PHD domain
4.  Acute Myeloid Leukemia in Infants: Biology and Treatment 
Children aged 0–2 years (i.e., infants) with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) are a peculiar subgroup of patients in the childhood AML scenario. They present with distinctive biological and clinical characteristics, including a high prevalence of prognostically unfavorable risk factors and an increased susceptibility to therapy-related toxicity. Remarkable improvements have been achieved over the last two decades in the treatment of these patients and their outcome is becoming superimposable to that of the older age groups. In this review, we will focus on peculiarities of this young subgroup of children with AML, describing their clinical presentation, the biology of disease, and factors influencing outcome. Treatment results and toxicity data reported by major collaborative groups are also summarized and compared.
PMCID: PMC4411976  PMID: 25973412
acute myeloid leukemia; infants; prognostic factors; toxicity; hematopoietic stem cell transplantation; treatment results
5.  Impact of Inflammatory Cytokine Gene Polymorphisms on Developing Acute Graft-versus-Host Disease in Children Undergoing Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation 
Journal of Immunology Research  2015;2015:248264.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in gene encoding pro- and anti-inflammatory factors have been associated with the occurrence of aGvHD. We retrospectively tested a wide panel of 38 polymorphisms in 19 immunoregulatory genes, aiming to first establish, in a pediatric HSCT setting, which SNPs were significantly associated with the development of aGvHD. A significant association was found between aGvHD grades II–IV and SNPs of donor IL10-1082GG, and Fas-670CC + CT and recipient IL18-607 TT + TG genotype. aGvHD grades III-IV resulted associated with donor IL10-1082GG, Fas-670CC + CT, and TLR4-3612TT as well as the use of peripheral CD34+ cells as stem cell source. The multivariate analysis confirmed the association between donor IL10-1082GG and Fas-670CC + CT and aGvHD grades II–IV and between donor IL10-1082GG and TLR4-3612TT and aGvHD grades III-IV. In conclusion we found an association between IL10, FAS, and TLR4 in the donor and IL18 in the recipient and an increased risk of developing aGvHD in transplanted children. Knowledge of the SNPs of cytokine genes associated with aGvHD represents a useful tool for an integrated pretransplantation risk assessment and could guide the physicians to an optimal and more accurate HSCT planning.
PMCID: PMC4417977  PMID: 25973432
6.  Laparoscopic resection of a rare gastrointestinal stromal tumor in children 
SpringerPlus  2015;4:73.
Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) are uncommon mesenchymal tumors of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, accounting for 0.1% to 3% of all GI malignancies. Paediatric GIST have an annual incidence of 0.02 per million children, have a female predisposition, are usually located in the stomach (50–60%) and in up to 85% of cases CD117-cKit or PDGFRA mutation is absent, resulting in a decreased efficacy of the target therapy.
Case description
We report the case of an incidentally diagnosed gastric GIST in a 14-year-old boy with multiple malformations. Genetic tests and Kariotype resulted negative.
Recently, an abdominal US visualized an hypoechoic heterogeneous abdominal mass. The common tumor markers resulted negative and the abdominal CT-scan confirmed the presence of a solid round lesion (42×36mm) in contact with the stomach and the pancreas. Laparoscopy allowed the recognition and the removal of the nodular mass at the posterior margin of the stomach. The histopathologic and the molecular biology findings were consistent with a kit-wilde type GIST. Surgical margins were microscopically free of tumor cells.
These results justify the decision not to add other surgical or medical therapy. However, for high risk of recurrence and metastasis, a close follow-up was started.
Discussion and evaluation
GIST are asymptomatic in 10% to 30% of patients or present nonspecific symptoms and signs. These tumors present usually irregular, lobulated and ulcerated. CT-scan of the abdomen and pelvis or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are mandatory in the diagnostic work-up. The final diagnosis is based on histology and immunohistochemistry. Surgery is the first-line treatment in patients with localized disease.
Guidelines for the management of pediatric GIST are not presently available for the paucity of reports and data. However it is widely accepted that surgery is the first-line treatment and gross resection with negative microscopic margins can be considered therapeutic and lead to full remission of the pathology. Laparoscopy is a safe surgical approach for the exploration of the abdominal cavity, the evaluation of the disease and the complete removal of the tumor.
PMCID: PMC4336300  PMID: 25717425
Gastrointestinal stromal tumor; Laparoscopy; Children
7.  Spleen nodules: a potential hallmark of Visceral Leishmaniasis in young children 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2014;14:620.
Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is a severe disease caused by Leishmania infantum in the Mediterranean basin, and is associated with considerable morbidity and mortality. Infantile VL may begin suddenly, with high fever and vomiting, or insidiously, with irregular daily fever, anorexia, and marked splenomegaly. Delays in diagnosis of VL are common, highlighting the need for increased awareness of clinicians for VL in endemic European countries.
Case presentation
We report 4 cases of young children in northern Italy presenting with persistent fever of unknown origin and diagnosed with VL by serological and molecular methods. At the time of diagnosis, these patients showed an unusual echographic pattern characterized by multiple iso-hypoechoic nodules associated with splenomegaly.
We suggest that detection of spleen nodules represents a signature of VL in infants, thus helping to diagnose systemic Leishmania infantum infection in children.
PMCID: PMC4270008  PMID: 25496484
Visceral leishmaniasis; Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis; Abdominal ultrasonography
8.  Late-onset of immunodysregulation, polyendocrinopathy, enteropathy, x-linked syndrome (IPEX) with intractable diarrhea 
The syndrome of immune dysregulation, polyendocrinopathy, enteropathy, X linked (IPEX) is a rare disorder caused by mutations in the FOXP3 gene. Diarrhea, diabetes and dermatitis are the hallmark of the disease, with a typical onset within the first months of life. We describe the case of a twelve-year old male affected by a very late-onset IPEX with intractable enteropathy, which markedly improved after starting Sirolimus as second-line treatment. This case suggests that IPEX should always be considered in the differential diagnosis of watery intractable diarrhea, despite its unusual onset.
PMCID: PMC4421998  PMID: 25326164
Immunodysregulation polyendocrinopathy enteropathy X-linked syndrome (IPEX); Sirolimus; Forkhead box P3 (FOXP3)
9.  Assessment of the effect of sphingosine kinase inhibitors on apoptosis,unfolded protein response and autophagy of T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells; indications for novel therapeutics 
Oncotarget  2014;5(17):7886-7901.
Sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) is a bioactive lipid that is formed by the phosphorylation of sphingosine and catalysed by sphingosine kinase 1 (SK1) or sphingosine kinase 2 (SK2). Sphingosine kinases play a fundamental role in many signaling pathways associated with cancer, suggesting that proteins belonging to this signaling network represent potential therapeutic targets. Over the last years, many improvements have been made in the treatment of T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL); however, novel and less toxic therapies are still needed, especially for relapsing and chemo-resistant patients. Here, we analyzed the therapeutic potential of SKi and ROMe, a sphingosine kinase 1 and 2 inhibitor and SK2-selective inhibitor, respectively. While SKi induced apoptosis, ROMe initiated an autophagic cell death in our in vitro cell models. SKi treatment induced an increase in SK1 protein levels in Molt-4 cells, whereas it activated the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress/unfolded protein response (UPR) pathway in Jurkat and CEM-R cells as protective mechanisms in a sub-population of T-ALL cells. Interestingly, we observed a synergistic effect of SKi with the classical chemotherapeutic drug vincristine. In addition, we reported that SKi affected signaling cascades implicated in survival, proliferation and stress response of cells. These findings indicate that SK1 or SK2 represent potential targets for treating T-ALL.
PMCID: PMC4202168  PMID: 25226616
T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia; sphingosine kinase inhibitors; apoptosis; autophagy; unfolded protein response
10.  Genomic profiling in Down syndrome acute lymphoblastic leukemia identifies histone gene deletions associated with altered methylation profiles 
Leukemia  2011;25(10):1555-1563.
Patients with Down syndrome (DS) and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) have distinct clinical and biological features. Whereas most DS-ALL cases lack the sentinel cytogenetic lesions that guide risk assignment in childhood ALL, JAK2 mutations and CRLF2 overexpression are highly enriched. To further characterize the unique biology of DS-ALL, we performed genome-wide profiling of 58 DS-ALL and 68 non-Down syndrome (NDS) ALL cases by DNA copy number, loss of heterozygosity, gene expression, and methylation analyses. We report a novel deletion within the 6p22 histone gene cluster as significantly more frequent in DS-ALL, occurring in 11 DS (22%) and only two NDS cases (3.1%) (Fisher’s exact p = 0.002). Homozygous deletions yielded significantly lower histone expression levels, and were associated with higher methylation levels, distinct spatial localization of methylated promoters, and enrichment of highly methylated genes for specific pathways and transcription factor binding motifs. Gene expression profiling demonstrated heterogeneity of DS-ALL cases overall, with supervised analysis defining a 45-transcript signature associated with CRLF2 overexpression. Further characterization of pathways associated with histone deletions may identify opportunities for novel targeted interventions.
PMCID: PMC4107887  PMID: 21647151
Down syndrome; acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL); histone; JAK2; CRLF2
11.  Atopic dermatitis phenotypes in childhood 
Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic inflammatory skin disease and can be the first step of the atopic march.
In this retrospective study, we analysed the immunological and clinical patterns of AD in a group of children affected by the disease since their first years of life, in order to evaluate if and how these patterns can change over time, and to identify biomarkers that can possibly correlate with the clinical phenotype.
We enrolled Caucasian children with diagnosis of AD performed by a specialist on the basis of Hanifin and Rajka’s criteria and with a first clinical and laboratory evaluation before 5 years of age. Patients were divided in 2 groups: IgE-associated AD (with or without allergic respiratory diseases) and non-IgE-associated AD.
Among 184 patients enrolled in this study, at the beginning 30/184 were classified as having non-IgE-associated AD, but during follow-up, at the median age of 36 months, 15 patients became allergic. All 15 patients who switched from the non-IgE to the IgE-associated form had a significantly earlier onset of AD than those who did not switch. Dust mite sensitization seem to be the best biomarker (OR 2.86) to predict the appearance of allergic respiratory diseases.
IgE-associated AD is more frequent in childhood than non-IgE-associated AD. These two phenotypes are different in the age of onset and in the remission patterns. In the first years of life, it is important to distinguish the different phenotypes in order to evaluate possible allergic related conditions.
PMCID: PMC4063231  PMID: 24887188
Atopic dermatitis; Phenotypes; Allergy; Childhood; Atopic march
12.  Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase 1 (IDO1) activity in leukemia blasts correlates with poor outcome in childhood acute myeloid leukemia 
Oncotarget  2013;5(8):2052-2064.
Microenvironmental factors contribute to the immune dysfunction characterizing acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase 1 (IDO1) is an interferon (IFN)-γ-inducible enzyme that degrades tryptophan into kynurenine, which, in turn, inhibits effector T cells and promotes regulatory T-cell (Treg) differentiation. It is presently unknown whether childhood AML cells express IDO1 and whether IDO1 activity correlates with patient outcome.
We investigated IDO1 expression and function in 37 children with newly diagnosed AML other than acute promyelocytic leukemia. Blast cells were cultured with exogenous IFN-γ for 24 hours, followed by the measurement of kynurenine production and tryptophan consumption. No constitutive expression of IDO1 protein was detected in blast cells from the 37 AML samples herein tested. Conversely, 19 out of 37 (51%) AML samples up-regulated functional IDO1 protein in response to IFN-γ. The inability to express IDO1 by the remaining 18 AML samples was not apparently due to a defective IFN-γ signaling circuitry, as suggested by the measurement of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) phosphorylation. Co-immunoprecipitation assays indicated the occurrence of physical interactions between STAT3 and IDO1 in AML blasts. In line with this finding, STAT3 inhibitors abrogated IDO1 function in AML blasts. Interestingly, levels of IFN-γ were significantly higher in the bone marrow fluid of IDO-expressing compared with IDO-nonexpressing AMLs. In mixed tumor lymphocyte cultures (MTLC), IDO-expressing AML blasts blunted the ability of allogeneic naïve T cells to produce IFN-γ and promoted Treg differentiation. From a clinical perspective, the 8-year event-free survival was significantly worse in IDO-expressing children (16.4%, SE 9.8) as compared with IDO-nonexpressing ones (48.0%, SE 12.1; p=0.035).
These data indicate that IDO1 expression by leukemia blasts negatively affects the prognosis of childhood AML. Moreover, they speak in favor of the hypothesis that IDO can be targeted, in adjunct to current chemotherapy approaches, to improve the clinical outcome of children with AML.
PMCID: PMC4039144  PMID: 24903009
Acute myeloid leukemia; IDO1; immune escape; regulatory T cells
13.  Molecular Imaging of Neuroblastoma Progression in TH-MYCN Transgenic Mice 
TH-MYCN transgenic mice represent a valuable preclinical model of neuroblastoma. Current methods to study tumor progression in these mice are inaccurate or invasive, limiting the potential of this murine model. The aim of our study was to assess the potential of small animal positron emission tomography (SA-PET) to study neuroblastoma progression in TH-MYCN mice.
Serial SA-PET scans using the tracer 2-deoxy-2-[18F]fluoro-D-glucose (18F-FDG) have been performed in TH-MYCN mice. Image analysis of tumor progression has been compared with ex vivo evaluation of tumor volumes and histological features.
[18F]FDG-SA-PET allowed to detect early staged tumors in almost 100 % of TH-MYCN mice positive for disease. Image analysis of tumor evolution reflected the modifications of the tumor volume, histological features, and malignancy during disease progression. Image analysis of TH-MYCN mice undergoing chemotherapy treatment against neuroblastoma provided information on drug-induced alterations in tumor metabolic activity.
These data show for the first time that [18F]FDG-SA-PET is a useful tool to study neuroblastoma presence and progression in TH-MYCN transgenic mice.
PMCID: PMC3594000  PMID: 22777578
Neuroblastoma; Small animal PET; [18F]FDG; TH-MYCN mice
14.  MYCN is a novel oncogenic target in pediatric T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia 
Oncotarget  2013;5(1):120-130.
MYCN is an oncogene frequently overexpressed in pediatric solid tumors whereas few evidences suggest his involvement in the pathogenesis of haematologic malignancies. Here we show that MYCN is overexpressed in a relevant proportion (40 to 50%) of adult and pediatric T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemias (T-ALL). Focusing on pediatric T-ALL, MYCN-expressing samples were found almost exclusively in the TAL1-positive subgroup. Moreover, TAL1 knockdown in T-ALL cell lines resulted in a reduction of MYCN expression, and TAL1 directly binds to MYCN promoter region, suggesting that TAL1 pathway activation could sustain the up-regulation of MYCN. The role of MYCN in T-ALL was investigated by peptide nucleic acid (PNA-MYCN)-mediated transcriptional silencing of MYCN and by siRNAs. MYCN knockdown in T-ALL cell lines resulted in a reduction of cell viability, up to 50%, while no effect was elicited with a mismatch PNA. The inhibitory effect of PNA-MYCN on cell viability was due to a significant increase in apoptosis. PNA-MYCN treatment in pediatric T-ALL samples reduced cell viability of leukemic cells from patients with high MYCN expression, while no effect was obtained in MYCN-negative blast cells. These results showed that MYCN is frequently overexpressed in pediatric T-ALL and suggested his role as a candidate for molecularly-directed therapies.
PMCID: PMC3960194  PMID: 24334727
pediatric T-ALL; MYCN; peptide nucleic acid; TAL1; TGF-β inhibitors
15.  Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APL): Comparison Between Children and Adults 
The outcome of adults and children with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APL) has dramatically changed since the introduction of all trans retinoic acid (ATRA) therapy. Based on the results of several multicenter trials, the current recommendations for the treatment of patients with APL include ATRA and anthracycline-based chemotherapy for the remission induction and consolidation, and ATRA combined with low-dose chemotherapy for maintenance. This has improved the prognosis of APL by increasing the complete remission (CR) rate, actually > 90%, decreasing the induction deaths and by reducing the relapse rate, leading to cure rates nowadays exceeding 80% considering both adults and children.1–9 More recently the combination of ATRA and arsenic trioxide (ATO) as induction and consolidation therapy has been shown to be at least not inferior and possibly superior to ATRA plus chemotherapy in adult patients with APL conventionally defined as non-high risk (Sanz score).10
Childhood APL has customarily been treated on adult protocols. Data from several trials have shown that the overall outcome in pediatric APL appears similar to that reported for the adult population; however, some clinical and therapeutic aspects differ in the two cohorts which require some important considerations and treatment adjustments.
PMCID: PMC4010611  PMID: 24804005
Cancer research  2009;69(8):10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-08-4884.
Recent investigations have documented that constitutively activated phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt/mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) signaling is a common feature of T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) where it strongly influences growth and survival. These findings lend compelling weight for the application of PI3K/Akt/mTOR inhibitors in T-ALL. However, our knowledge of PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling in T-ALL is limited and it is not clear whether it could be an effective target for innovative therapeutic strategies. Here, we have analyzed the therapeutic potential of the dual PI3K/mTOR inhibitor, PI-103, a small synthetic molecule of the pyridofuropyrimidine class, on both T-ALL cell lines and patient samples, which displayed constitutive activation of PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling. PI-103 inhibited the growth of T-ALL cells, including 170-kDa glycoprotein overexpressing cells. PI-103 cytotoxicity was independent of p53 gene status. PI-103 was more potent than inhibitors which are selective only for PI3K (Wortmannin, LY294002) or for mTOR (rapamycin). PI-103 induced G0/G1 phase cell cycle arrest and apoptosis which was characterized by activation of caspase-3 and -9. PI-103 caused Akt dephosphorylation, accompanied by dephosphorylation of the Akt downstream target, glycogen synthase kinase-3β. Also mTOR downstream targets were dephosphorylated in response to PI-103, including p70S6 kinase, ribosomal S6 protein, and 4E-BP1. PI-103 strongly synergized with vincristine. These findings indicate that multi-targeted therapy towards PI3K and mTOR, alone or with existing drugs, may serve as an efficient treatment towards T-ALL cells which require upregulation of PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling for their survival and growth.
PMCID: PMC3836286  PMID: 19351820
PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling; apoptosis; caspases; drug resistance; combination therapy
18.  DHH-RHEBL1 fusion transcript: a novel recurrent feature in the new landscape of pediatric CBFA2T3-GLIS2-positive acute myeloid leukemia 
Oncotarget  2013;4(10):1712-1720.
Childhood Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is a clinically and genetically heterogeneous malignant disease. Despite improvements in outcome over the past decades, the current survival rate still is approximately 60-70%. Cytogenetic, recurrent genetic abnormalities and early response to induction treatment are the main factors predicting clinical outcome. While the majority of children carry recurrent chromosomal translocations, 20% of patients do not show any recognizable cytogenetic alteration and are defined to have cytogenetically normal AML (CN-AML). This subset of patients is characterized by a significant heterogeneity in clinical outcome, which is influenced by factors only recently started to be identified. In this respect, genome-wide analyses have been used with the aim of defining the full array of genetic lesions in CN-AML. Recently, through whole-transcriptome massively parallel sequencing of seven cases of pediatric CN-AML, we identified a novel recurrent CBFA2T3-GLIS2 fusion, predicting poorer outcome. However, since the expression of CBFA2T3-GLIS2 fusion in mice is not sufficient for leukemogenesis, we speculated that further unknown abnormalities could contribute to both cancer transformation and response to treatment. Thus, we analyzed, by whole-transcriptome sequencing, 4 CBFA2T3-GLIS2-positive patients, as well as 4 CN-AML patients. We identified a new fusion transcript in the CBFA2T3-GLIS2 -positive patients, involving Desert Hedgehog (DHH), a member of Hedgehog family, and Ras Homologue Enrich in Brain Like 1 (RHEBL1), a gene coding for a small GTPase of the Ras family. Through the screening of a validation cohort of 55 additional pediatric AML patients, we globally detected DHH-RHEBL1 fusion in 8 out of 20 (40%) CBFA2T3-GLIS2- rearranged patients. Gene expression analysis performed on RNA-seq data revealed that DHH-RHEBL1 –positive patients exhibited a specific signature. These 8 patients had an 8-year overall survival worse than that of the remaining 12 CBFA2T3-GLIS2- rearranged patients not harboring DHH-RHEBL1 fusion (25% vs 55%, respectively, P =0.1). Taken together, these findings are unprecedented and indicate that the DHH-RHEBL1 fusion transcript is a novel recurrent feature in the changing landscape of CBFA2T3-GLIS2 -positive childhood AML. Moreover, it could be instrumental in the identification of a subgroup of CBFA2T3-GLIS2 -positive patients with a very poor outcome.
PMCID: PMC3858557  PMID: 24127550
pediatric acute myeloid leukemia; cytogenetically normal acute myeloid leukemia; whole-transcriptome massively parallel sequencing; CBFA2T3-GLIS2 fusion transcript; DHH-RHEBL1 fusion transcript
19.  Ewing Sarcoma of the Bone in Children under 6 Years of Age 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53223.
Ewing Sarcoma Family Tumours (ESFT) are rare in early childhood. The aim of this study was to report the clinical characteristics and outcome of children under 6 years of age affected by ESFT of the bone in Italy.
The records of all the children diagnosed with osseous ESFT in centres members of the Associazione Italiana di Ematologia ed Oncologia Pediatrica (AIEOP) from 1990 to 2008 were reviewed. The Kaplan–Meier method was used for estimating overall and progression-free survival (OS, PFS) curves; multivariate analyses were performed using Cox proportional hazards regression model.
This study includes 62 patients. An axial primary localization was present in 66% of patients, with the primary site in the chest wall in 34%. Fourteen (23%) patients presented metastatic disease. The 5-year OS and PFS were 73% (95% confidence interval, CI, 58–83%) and 72% (95% CI 57–83%) for patients with localized disease and 38% (95% CI 17–60%) and 21% (95% CI 5–45%) for patients with metastatic disease. Metastatic spread, skull/pelvis/spine primary localization, progression during treatment and no surgery predicted worse survival (P<0.01), while patients treated in the last decade had better survival (P  = 0.002). In fact, the 5-year OS and PFS for patients diagnosed in the period 2000–2008 were 89% (95% CI 71–96%) and 86% (95% CI 66–94%), respectively.
The axial localization is the most common site of ESFT in pre-scholar children. Patients treated in the most recent period have an excellent outcome.
PMCID: PMC3561359  PMID: 23382839
20.  Citrus Allergy from Pollen to Clinical Symptoms 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53680.
Allergy to citrus fruits is often associated with pollinosis and sensitization to other plants due to a phenomenon of cross-reactivity. The aims of the present study were to highlight the cross-reactivity among citrus and the major allergenic pollens/fruits, throughout clinical and molecular investigations, and to evaluate the sensitization frequency to citrus fruits in a population of children and adults with pollinosis. We found a relevant percentage of sensitisation (39%) to citrus fruits in the patients recruited and in all of them the IgE-mediated mechanism has been confirmed by the positive response to the prick-to-prick test. RT-PCR experiments showed the expression of Cit s 1, Cit s 3 and a profilin isoform, already described in apple, also in Citrus clementine pollen. Data of multiple sequence alignments demonstrated that Citrus allergens shared high percentage identity values with other clinically relevant species (i.e. Triticum aestivum, Malus domestica), confirming the possible cross-allergenicity citrus/grasses and citrus/apple. Finally, a novelty of the present work has been the expression of two phospholipaseA2 isoforms (PLA2 α and β) in Citrus as well as in Triticum pollens; being PLA2 able to generate pro-inflammatory factors, this enzyme could participate in the activation of the allergenic inflammatory cascade.
PMCID: PMC3537725  PMID: 23308273
21.  Harnessing the PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia: Eliminating activity by targeting at different levels 
Oncotarget  2012;3(8):811-823.
T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is an aggressive malignant hematological disorder arising in the thymus from T-cell progenitors. T-ALL mainly affects children and young adults, and remains fatal in 20% of adolescents and 50% of adults, despite progress in polychemotherapy protocols. Therefore, innovative targeted therapies are desperately needed for patients with a dismal prognosis. Aberrant activation of PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling is a common event in T-ALL patients and portends a poor prognosis. Preclinical studies have highlighted that modulators of PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling could have a therapeutic relevance in T-ALL. However, the best strategy for inhibiting this highly complex signal transduction pathway is still unclear, as the pharmaceutical companies have disclosed an impressive array of small molecules targeting this signaling network at different levels. Here, we demonstrate that a dual PI3K/PDK1 inhibitor, NVP-BAG956, displayed the most powerful cytotoxic effects against T-ALL cell lines and primary patients samples, when compared with a pan class I PI3K inhibitor (GDC-0941), an allosteric Akt inhibitor (MK-2206), an mTORC1 allosteric inhibitor (RAD-001), or an ATP-competitive mTORC1/mTORC2 inhibitor (KU-63794). Moreover, we also document that combinations of some of the aforementioned drugs strongly synergized against T-ALL cells at concentrations well below their respective IC50. This observation indicates that vertical inhibition at different levels of the PI3K/Akt/mTOR network could be considered as a future innovative strategy for treating T-ALL patients.
PMCID: PMC3478458  PMID: 22885370
acute leukemia; targeted therapy; signal transduction modulators; PI3K/PDK1; vertical inhibition
22.  Unbalance of intestinal microbiota in atopic children 
BMC Microbiology  2012;12:95.
Playing a strategic role in the host immune function, the intestinal microbiota has been recently hypothesized to be involved in the etiology of atopy. In order to investigate the gastrointestinal microbial ecology of atopic disease, here we performed a pilot comparative molecular analysis of the faecal microbiota in atopic children and healthy controls.
Nineteen atopic children and 12 healthy controls aged 4–14 years were enrolled. Stools were collected and the faecal microbiota was characterized by means of the already developed phylogenetic microarray platform, HTF-Microbi.Array, and quantitative PCR. The intestinal microbiota of atopic children showed a significant depletion in members of the Clostridium cluster IV, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, Akkermansia muciniphila and a corresponding increase of the relative abundance of Enterobacteriaceae.
Depleted in key immunomodulatory symbionts, the atopy-associated microbiota can represent an inflammogenic microbial consortium which can contribute to the severity of the disease. Our data open the way to the therapeutic manipulation of the intestinal microbiota in the treatment of atopy by means of pharmaceutical probiotics.
PMCID: PMC3404014  PMID: 22672413
23.  Atopic dermatitis in adolescence 
Dermatology Reports  2011;4(1):e1.
Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder that typically occurs during childhood especially in the first year of life, with a variable frequency from 10% to 30%. Recent studies have shown that in Europe among 10–20% of children with AD suffer from this disorder also in adolescence. AD is a chronic inflammatory skin disease with a typical onset in the first years of life and with a 10–30% prevalence among young children. AD prevalence in adolescence has been estimated around 5–15% in European countries. AD persists from childhood through adolescence in around 40% of cases and some risk factors have been identified: female sex, sensitization to inhalant and food allergens, allergic asthma and/or rhinoconjunctivitis, the practice of certain jobs. During adolescence, AD mainly appears on the face and neck, often associated with overinfection by Malassezia, and on the palms and soles. AD persistence during adolescence is correlated with psychological diseases such as anxiety; moreover, adolescents affected by AD might have problems in the relationship with their peers. Stress and the psychological problems represent a serious burden for adolescents with AD and cause a significant worsening of the patients' quality of life (QoL). The pharmacological treatment is similar to other age groups. Educational and psychological approaches should be considered in the most severe cases.
PMCID: PMC4212666  PMID: 25386309
atopic dermatitis; adolescence; quality of life.
24.  Negative pressure treatment for necrotizing fasciitis after chemotherapy 
Pediatric Reports  2011;3(4):e33.
We describe 2 cases of children with malignant disease who developed severe mucositis with perineal necrotizing fasciitis during severe neutropenia after chemotherapy. Treatment with topical negative pressure therapy with silver foam dressing, together with large spectrum antibiotics, resolved the problem with complete closure of the wound after 30 and 36 days of treatment, respectively.
PMCID: PMC3283201  PMID: 22355518
negative pressure treatment; necrotizing fasciitis; chemotherapy; pediatric.
25.  End point prick test: could this new test be used to predict the outcome of oral food challenge in children with cow's milk allergy? 
Cow's milk allergy (CMA) is the most frequent food allergy in childhood; the trend of CMA is often characterized by a progressive improvement to achieve tolerance in the first 4 to 5 years of life.
It has been observed that specific IgE (sIgE) towards cow's milk proteins decrease when the age increases.
Although food allergy can be easily diagnosed, it is difficult to predict the outcome of the oral food challenge (OFC), that remains the gold standard in the diagnosis of food allergy, by allergometric tests.
We considered 44 children with CMA diagnosed through OFC who returned to our Allergy and Immunology Pediatric Department between January to December 2010 to evaluate the persistence of allergy or the achievement of tolerance.
On the basis of the history, we performed both allergometric skin tests and OFC in children that were still following a milk-free diet, whereas only allergometric skin tests those that had already undergone spontaneous introduction of milk protein at home without presenting symptoms.
The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between the persistence of CMA or the acquisition of tolerance and the results of the end point prick test (EPT).
Results and Discussion
The OFC with cow's milk was performed on 30 children, 4 children were excluded because of a history of severe reactions to cow's milk, and 10 because they had spontaneously already taken milk food derivates at home without problems. 16/30 (53%) children showed clinical reactions and the challenge was stopped, 14/30 (47%) did not have any reaction.
Comparing the mean wheal diameter of every EPT's dilution between the group of allergic children and the tolerant ones, we obtained a significant difference (p < 0.05) for the first 4 dilutions.
We have also calculated sensitivity (SE), specificity (SP), the positive predictive value (PPV) and the negative predictive value (NPV) for each EPT dilution.
EPT is a safe and cheap test, easy to be executed and that could provide good prediction of the outcome of OFC; so it might be used to avoid OFC-induced anaphylaxis in children affected by CMA. It can also help avoiding dietetic restrictions in tolerant children who show sensitization towards cow's milk proteins.
PMCID: PMC3220633  PMID: 22053846
Cow's milk proteins allergy; end point prick test; food oral challenge; tolerance

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