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1.  Liver transplantation for malignancy: Current treatment strategies and future perspectives 
In 1967, Starzl et al performed the first successful liver transplantation for a patient diagnosed with hepatoblastoma. In the following, liver transplantation was considered ideal for complete tumor resection and potential cure from primary hepatic malignancies. Several reports of liver transplantation for primary and metastatic liver cancer however showed disappointing results and the strategy was soon dismissed. In 1996, Mazzaferro et al introduced the Milan criteria, offering liver transplantation to patients diagnosed with limited hepatocellular carcinoma. Since then, liver transplantation for malignant disease is an ongoing subject of preclinical and clinical research. In this context, several aspects must be considered: (1) Given the shortage of deceased-donor organs, long-term overall and disease free survival should be comparable with results obtained in patients transplanted for non-malignant disease; (2) In this regard, living-donor liver transplantation may in selected patients help to solve the ethical dilemma of optimal individual patient treatment vs organ allocation justice; and (3) Ongoing research focusing on perioperative therapy and anti-proliferative immunosuppressive regimens may further reduce tumor recurrence in patients transplanted for malignant disease and thus improve overall survival. The present review gives an overview of current indications and future perspectives of liver transplantation for malignant disease.
PMCID: PMC4017048  PMID: 24833863
Hepatocellular; Fibrolamellar; Carcinoma; Cholangiocellular; Hepatoblastoma; Liver metastases
2.  Oxaliplatin-based versus irinotecan-based hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) in patients with peritoneal metastasis from appendiceal and colorectal cancer: a retrospective analysis 
BMC Cancer  2014;14(1):807.
Cytoreductive surgery (CRS) and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) provide an effective treatment option for selected patients with colorectal peritoneal metastasis with encouraging survival results. Many different drug combinations and HIPEC regimens including bidirectional, i.e. synchronous intravenous and intraperitoneal, drug application have been used. However, there is still no standardization of the HIPEC regimen.
Between 05/2007 and 04/2010 190 patients underwent CRS and HIPEC at the University Hospital Regensburg. Thirty-two patients with peritoneal metastasis arising from colorectal or appendiceal cancer underwent complete macroscopic cytoreduction (CC-0/1) and bidirectional HIPEC and completed at least 3-year follow-up. Twenty patients received oxaliplatin-based (OX) and twelve patients received irinotecan-based HIPEC (IRI). Group-specific perioperative morbidity and 3-year survival has been determined.
The grade 3/4 morbidity rate according to CTCAE v4 was 35.0% in the OX group vs. 33.3% in the IRI group (p = 1.000). There was no perioperative mortality in both groups. Median survival was 26.8 months (95% CI 15.7-33.1 months) in the IRI group and has not yet been reached in the OX group during a median follow-up of 39.4 months. Three-year survival rates were 65.0% in the OX group vs. 41.7% in the IRI group (p = 0.295).
The morbidity and toxicity rates of bidirectional irinotecan-based and oxaliplatin-based HIPEC are comparable. Nevertheless, in the absence of contraindications oxaliplatin-based HIPEC might be preferred due to the positive trend regarding 3-year and median survival.
PMCID: PMC4228082  PMID: 25369730
Peritoneal carcinomatosis; HIPEC; Irinotecan; Oxaliplatin; Morbidity; Survival
3.  Treatment of colorectal liver metastases in Germany: a ten-year population-based analysis of 5772 cases of primary colorectal adenocarcinoma 
BMC Cancer  2014;14(1):810.
Purpose of this study was to analyse the surgical management and long-term clinical outcome of patients diagnosed with colorectal liver metastases (CLM) over a period of 10 years using data from a German tumour registry.
Retrospective analysis of 5772 patients diagnosed with colorectal adenocarcinoma between 2002 and 2007. Follow-up was continued until 2012.
1426 patients (24.7%) had CLM; 1019 patients (71%) had synchronous, 407 patients (29%) developed metachronous CLM. Hepatic resection was performed in 374 of the 1426 CLM patients (26%). A significant increase in liver resection rate from 16.6% for the 2002 cohort to 32% in later cohorts was observed. In centers specialized in liver surgery, CLM resection rates reached 46.6%. However, up to 52% of patients diagnosed with three or less CLM did not undergo liver surgery, although, if resected, patients with 1 CLM show a similar long-time survival as CRC patients who do not develop any CLM. Univariate and multivariate analyses adjusted for age, sex, year of resection, time of CLM diagnosis and number of CLM revealed a significant survival benefit for CLM resection (HR =0.355; CI 0.305-0.414). Furthermore, significant impact on OS was seen for age at diagnosis, perioperative chemotherapy and number of CLM.
We here present the first long-term, population-based analysis of the surgical management of CLM in Germany. Significant increase in hepatic resection rates, translating to a significant benefit in OS, was seen over years. However, we still see a striking potential for further improvements in interdisciplinary CLM management.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-810) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4230526  PMID: 25369977
Metastasis; Liver resection; Colon cancer; Hepatic surgery
4.  Retrograde stapling of a free cervical jejunal interposition graft: a technical innovation and case report 
BMC Surgery  2014;14:78.
Free jejunal interposition is a useful technique for reconstruction of the cervical esophagus. However, the distal anastomosis between the graft and the remaining thoracic esophagus or a gastric conduit can be technically challenging when located very low in the thoracic aperture. We here describe a modified technique for retrograde stapling of a jejunal graft to a failed gastric conduit using a circular stapler on a delivery system.
Case presentation
A 56 year-old patient had been referred for esophageal squamous cell carcinoma at 20 cm from the incisors. On day 8 after thoracoabdominal esophagectomy with gastric pull-up, an anastomotic leakage was diagnosed. A proximal-release stent was successfully placed by gastroscopy and the patient was discharged. Two weeks later, an esophagotracheal fistula occurred proximal to the esophageal stent. Cervical esophagostomy was performed with cranial closure of the gastric conduit, which was left in situ within the right hemithorax. Three months later, reconstruction was performed using a free jejunal interposition. The anvil of a circular stapler (Orvil®, Covidien) was placed transabdominally through an endoscopic rendez-vous procedure into the gastric conduit. A free jejunal graft was retrogradely stapled to the proximal end of the conduit. Microvascular anastomoses were performed subsequently. The proximal anastomosis of the conduit was completed manually after reperfusion.
This modified technique allows stapling of a jejunal interposition graft located deep in the thoracic aperture and is therefore a useful method that may help to avoid reconstruction by colonic pull-up and thoracotomy.
PMCID: PMC4202252  PMID: 25319372
Gastric pull-up; Esophageal cancer; Conduit; Esophageal reconstruction
5.  Heart Grafts Tolerized Through Third-Party Multipotent Adult Progenitor Cells Can Be Retransplanted to Secondary Hosts With No Immunosuppression 
This study found that stable allograft survival could be achieved following third-party multipotent adult progenitor cell (MAPC) infusion in a rat model of fully allogeneic, heterotopic heart transplantation. MAPC-based immunomodulation represents a promising pathway for clinical immunotherapy and has prompted the initiation of a phase I clinical trial for testing safety and feasibility of third-party MAPC therapy after liver transplantation.
Multipotent adult progenitor cells (MAPCs) are an adherent stem cell population that belongs to the mesenchymal-type progenitor cell family. Although MAPCs are emerging as candidate agents for immunomodulation after solid organ transplantation, their value requires further validation in a clinically relevant cell therapy model using an organ donor- and organ recipient-independent, third-party cell product. We report that stable allograft survival can be achieved following third-party MAPC infusion in a rat model of fully allogeneic, heterotopic heart transplantation. Furthermore, long-term accepted heart grafts recovered from MAPC-treated animals can be successfully retransplanted to naïve animals without additional immunosuppression. This prolongation of MAPC-mediated allograft acceptance depends upon a myeloid cell population since depletion of macrophages by clodronate abrogates the tolerogenic MAPC effect. We also show that MAPC-mediated allograft acceptance differs mechanistically from drug-induced tolerance regarding marker gene expression, T regulatory cell induction, retransplantability, and macrophage dependence. MAPC-based immunomodulation represents a promising pathway for clinical immunotherapy that has led us to initiate a phase I clinical trial for testing safety and feasibility of third-party MAPC therapy after liver transplantation.
PMCID: PMC3726139  PMID: 23836805
Immunosuppression; Mesenchymal stem cells; Transplantation; T cells
6.  Laparoscopic trans- and retroperitoneal adrenal surgery for large tumors 
Laparoscopic adrenalectomy for tumors larger than 6 cm is currently a matter of controversial discussion because of difficult mobilization from surrounding organs and a possible risk of capsule rupture.
Data of consecutive patients undergoing laparoscopic adrenalectomy between 1/1994 and 7/2012 were collected and analysed retrospectively. Intra- and postoperative morbidity in patients with tumors ≤6 cm (group 1, n = 227) were compared to patients with tumors >6 cm, (group 2, n = 52).
Incidence of adrenocortical carcinoma was significantly higher in group 2 patients (6.3% vs. 0.4%, P = 0.039) whereas the incidence of aldosterone-producing adenoma was lower (2% vs. 25%, P = 0.001). Mean duration of surgery was longer (105 min vs. 88 min, P = 0.03) and the estimated blood loss was higher (470 mL vs. 150 mL) in group 2 patients. Intraoperative bleeding rate (5.7% vs. 0.8%, P = 0.041), and the conversion rate were significantly higher (5.7% vs. 1.3%, P = 0.011) in group 2. Also, postoperative complication rate was significantly higher in group 2 (11.5% vs. 3.0%, P = 0.022). However, only two major complications occurred, one in each group.
Minimally invasive adrenal surgery can be performed by an experienced surgeon even in patients with large tumors (>6 cm) with an increased but still acceptable intra- and postoperative morbidity.
PMCID: PMC3996732  PMID: 24761076
Adrenocortical carcinoma; laparoscopic adrenalectomy; postoperative complications
7.  Complete small bowel recovery after prolonged total venous occlusion. 
Acute small bowel ischaemia is a mostly irreversible condition associated with high mortality. Here we report the case of a patient after severe abdominal trauma in whom the superior mesenteric vein (SMV) was completely occluded for more than 15 h in the absence of any collateral venous drainage. Following surgical reconstruction of the SMV and with scheduled relaparotomies for 5 days, the bowel showed slow recovery. Now the patient is well and on complete oral nutrition.
PMCID: PMC2503830  PMID: 12092869
8.  Accept or refuse? Factors influencing the decision-making of transplant surgeons who are offered a pancreas: results of a qualitative study 
BMC Surgery  2013;13:47.
Most offered pancreases are not transplanted. This study investigates the factors that inform and influence the transplant surgeon’s decision to select an offered pancreas.
Semi-standardized interviews were conducted with 14 highly qualified transplant surgeons from all 14 German transplant centers performing > 5 pancreas transplantations per year. The interviews focused on medical and non-medical criteria on which the individual accept/refuse decision depends. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and underwent content analysis.
The interviewees agreed upon certain main selection criteria, e.g. donor age, lab results, ICU stay. However, there was no consistency in judging these parameters, and clear cut-offs did not exist. The pancreas macroscopy is a pivotal factor, as well as knowing (and trusting) the donor surgeon. 3/14 surgeons reported that they had occasionally refused a pancreas because of staff shortage. Some interviewees followed a restrictive acceptance policy, whereas others preferred to accept almost any pancreas and inspect it personally before deciding.
The assessment of medical donor characteristics is highly inconsistent. Both very cautious as well as very permissive acceptance policies may render the allocation process less efficient. A more standardized policy should be discussed. Finally, better training for donor surgeons seems advisable, in order to increase trust and thus pancreas utilization.
PMCID: PMC4016525  PMID: 24152541
Pancreas transplantation; Under-utilization; Allocation process; Refusal
9.  IL-13 signaling via IL-13Rα2 triggers TGF-β1-dependent allograft fibrosis 
Allograft fibrosis still remains a critical problem in transplantation, including heart transplantation. The IL-13/TGF-β1 interaction has previously been identified as a key pathway orchestrating fibrosis in different inflammatory immune disorders. Here we investigate if this pathway is also responsible for allograft fibrosis and if interference with the IL-13/TGF-β1 interaction prevents allograft fibrosis.
FVB or control DBA/1 donor hearts were transplanted heterotopically into DBA/1 recipient mice and hearts were explanted at day 60 and 100 post-transplantation. Cardiac tissue was examined by Masson’s trichrome staining and immunohistochemistry for CD4, CD8, CD11b, IL-13, Fas ligand, matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-1, MMP-13, β2-microglobulin, and Gremlin-1. Graft-infiltrating cells were isolated and analyzed by flow cytometry. IL-13 and TGF-β1 levels were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and the amount of collagen was quantified using a Sircol assay; IL-13Rα2 expression was detected by Western blotting. In some experiments IL-13/ TGF-β1 signaling was blocked with specific IL-13Rα2 siRNA. Additionally, a PCR array of RNA isolated from the allografts was performed to analyze expression of multiple genes involved in fibrosis.
Both groups survived long-term (>100 days). The allogeneic grafts were infiltrated by significantly increased numbers of CD4+ (P <0.0001), CD8+ (P <0.0001), and CD11b+ cells (P = 0.0065) by day 100. Furthermore, elevated IL-13 levels (P = 0.0003) and numbers of infiltrating IL-13+ cells (P = 0.0037), together with an expression of IL-13Rα2, were detected only within allografts. The expression of IL-13 and IL-13Rα2 resulted in significantly increased TGF-β1 levels (P <0.0001), higher numbers of CD11bhighGr1intermediateTGF-β1+ cells, and elevated cardiac collagen deposition (P = 0.0094). The allograft fibrosis found in these experiments was accompanied by upregulation of multiple profibrotic genes, which was confirmed by immunohistochemical stainings of allograft tissue. Blockage of the IL-13/TGF-β1 interaction by IL-13Rα2 siRNA led to lower numbers of CD11bhighGr1intermediateTGF-β1+, CD4+, CD8+, and CD11b+ cells, and prevented collagen deposition (P = 0.0018) within these allografts.
IL-13 signaling via IL-13Rα2 induces TGF-β1 and causes allograft fibrosis in a murine model of chronic transplant rejection. Blockage of this IL-13/TGF-β1 interaction by IL-13Rα2 siRNA prevents cardiac allograft fibrosis. Thus, IL-13Rα2 may be exploitable as a future target to reduce allograft fibrosis in organ transplantation.
PMCID: PMC4016099  PMID: 24143891
IL-13; IL-13Rα2; TGF-β1; Allograft fibrosis; Heart transplantation
10.  Extended pancreas donor program – the EXPAND study rationale and study protocol 
Simultaneous pancreas kidney transplantation (SPK), pancreas transplantation alone (PTA) or pancreas transplantation after kidney (PAK) are the only curative treatment options for patients with type 1 (juvenile) diabetes mellitus with or without impaired renal function. Unfortunately, transplant waiting lists for this indication are increasing because the current organ acceptability criteria are restrictive; morbidity and mortality significantly increase with time on the waitlist. Currently, only pancreas organs from donors younger than 50 years of age and with a body mass index (BMI) less than 30 are allocated for transplantation in the Eurotransplant (ET) area. To address this issue we designed a study to increase the available donor pool for these patients.
This study is a prospective, multicenter (20 German centers), single blinded, non-randomized, two armed trial comparing outcome after SPK, PTA or PAK between organs with the currently allowed donor criteria versus selected organs from donors with extended criteria. Extended donor criteria are defined as organs procured from donors with a BMI of 30 to 34 or a donor age between 50 and 60 years. Immunosuppression is generally standardized using induction therapy with Myfortic, tacrolimus and low dose steroids. In principle, all patients on the waitlist for primary SPK, PTA or PAK are eligible for the clinical trial when they consent to possibly receiving an extended donor criteria organ. Patients receiving an organ meeting the current standard criteria for pancreas allocation (control arm) are compared to those receiving extended criteria organ (study arm); patients are blinded for a follow-up period of one year. The combined primary endpoint is survival of the pancreas allograft and pancreas allograft function after three months, as an early relevant outcome parameter for pancreas transplantation.
The EXPAND Study has been initiated to investigate the hypothesis that locally allocated extended criteria organs can be transplanted with similar results compared to the currently allowed standard ET organ allocation. If our study shows a favorable comparison to standard organ allocation criteria, the morbidity and mortality for patients waiting for transplantation could be reduced in the future.
Trial registration
Trial registered at: NCT01384006
PMCID: PMC3716891  PMID: 23816330
Pancreas transplantation; Organ allocation; Extended donor criteria; Rejection
11.  The effects of the semirecumbent position on hemodynamic status in patients on invasive mechanical ventilation: prospective randomized multivariable analysis 
Critical Care  2013;17(2):R80.
Adopting the 45° semirecumbent position in mechanically ventilated critically ill patients is recommended, as it has been shown to reduce the incidence of ventilator-associated pneumonia. Although the benefits to the respiratory system are clear, it is not known whether elevating the head of the bed results in hemodynamic instability. We examined the effect of head of bed elevation (HBE) on hemodynamic status and investigated the factors that influence mean arterial pressure (MAP) and central venous oxygen saturation (ScvO2) when patients were positioned at 0°, 30°, and 45°.
Two hundred hemodynamically stable adults on invasive mechanical ventilation admitted to a multidisciplinary surgical intensive care unit were recruited. Patients' characteristics included catecholamine and sedative doses, the original angle of head of bed elevation (HBE), the level of positive end expiratory pressure (PEEP), duration and mode of mechanical ventilation. A sequence of HBE positions (0°, 30°, and 45°) was adopted in random order, and MAP and ScvO2 were measured at each position. Patients acted as their own controls. The influence of degree of HBE and of the covariables on MAP and ScvO2 was analyzed by using liner mixed models. Additionally, uni- and multivariable logistic regression models were used to indentify risk factors for hypotension during HBE, defined as MAP <65 mmHg.
Changing HBE from supine to 45° caused significant reductions in MAP (from 83.8 mmHg to 71.1 mmHg, P < 0.001) and ScvO2 (76.1% to 74.3%, P < 0.001). Multivariable modeling revealed that mode and duration of mechanical ventilation, the norepinephrine dose, and HBE had statistically significant influences. Pressure-controlled ventilation was the most influential risk factor for hypotension when HBE was 45° (odds ratio (OR) 2.33, 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.23 to 4.76, P = 0.017).
HBE to the 45° position is associated with significant decreases in MAP and ScvO2 in mechanically ventilated patients. Pressure-controlled ventilation, higher simplified acute physiology (SAPS II) score, sedation, high catecholamine, and PEEP requirements were identified as independent risk factors for hypotension after backrest elevation. Patients at risk may need positioning at 20° to 30° to overcome the negative effects of HBE, especially in the early phase of intensive care unit admission.
PMCID: PMC4056784  PMID: 23622019
12.  Patients without hepatocellular carcinoma progression after transarterial chemoembolization benefit from liver transplantation 
AIM: To assess the outcome of patients, who under-went transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and subsequently liver transplantation (OLT) irrespective of tumor size when no tumor progression was observed.
METHODS: Records, imaging studies and pathology of 84 patients with HCC were reviewed. Ten patients were not treated at all, 67 patients had TACE and 35 of them were listed for OLT. Tumor progression was monitored by ultrasound and AFP level every 6 wk. Fifteen patients showed signs of tumor progression without transplantation. The remaining 20 patients underwent OLT. Further records of 7 patients with HCC seen in histological examination after OLT were included.
RESULTS: The patients after TACE without tumor progression underwent transplantation and had a median survival of 92.3 mo. Patients, who did not qualify for liver transplantation or had signs of tumor progression had a median survival of 8.4 mo. The patients without treatment had a median survival of 3.8 mo. Independent of International Union Against Cancer (UICC) stages, the patients without tumor progression and subsequent OLT had longer median survival. No significant difference was seen in the OLT treated patients if they did not fulfill the Milan criteria.
CONCLUSION: Selection of patients for OLT based on tumor progression results in good survival. The evaluation of HCC patients should not only be based on tumor size and number of foci but also on tumor progression and growth behavior under therapy.
PMCID: PMC4066010  PMID: 17278200
Liver transplantation; Hepatocellular carcinoma
13.  A prospective multicenter phase II study evaluating multimodality treatment of patients with peritoneal carcinomatosis arising from appendiceal and colorectal cancer: the COMBATAC trial 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:67.
Peritoneal carcinomatosis is regarded as a common sign of advanced tumor stage, tumor progression or local recurrence of appendiceal and colorectal cancer and is generally associated with poor prognosis. Although survival of patients with advanced stage CRC has markedly improved over the last 20 years with systemic treatment, comprising combination chemotherapy +/− monoclonal antibodies, the oncological outcome—especially of the subgroup of patients with peritoneal metastases—is still unsatisfactory. In addition to systemic therapy, cytoreductive surgery (CRS) and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) are specific treatment options for a selected group of these patients and may provide an additional therapeutic benefit in the framework of an interdisciplinary treatment concept.
The COMBATAC trial is a prospective, multicenter, open-label, single-arm, single-stage phase II trial investigating perioperative systemic polychemotherapy including cetuximab in combination with CRS and HIPEC patients with histologically proven wild-type KRAS colorectal or appendiceal adenocarcinoma and synchronous or metachronous peritoneal carcinomatosis. The planned total number of patients to be recruited is 60. The primary endpoint is progression-free survival (PFS). Secondary endpoints include overall survival (OS), perioperative morbidity and treatment-associated toxicity, feasibility of the combined treatment regimen, quality of life (QoL) and histopathological regression after preoperative chemotherapy.
The COMBATAC trial is designed to evaluate the feasibility and efficacy of the combined multidisciplinary treatment regimen consisting of perioperative systemic combination chemotherapy plus cetuximab and CRS plus bidirectional HIPEC with intraperitoneal oxaliplatin.
Trial registration Identifier: NCT01540344, EudraCT number: 2009-014040-11
PMCID: PMC3575316  PMID: 23391248
Cytoreductive surgery; HIPEC; Perioperative chemotherapy; Cetuximab; Colorectal cancer; Peritoneal carcinomatosis
14.  5-Fluorouracil-related enhancement of adenoviral infection is Coxsackievirus-adenovirus receptor independent and associated with morphological changes in lipid membranes 
AIM: To evaluate the mechanism underlying the effects of 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) on adenoviral infection.
METHODS: Low and high Coxsackievirus-Adenovirus Receptor (CAR) expressing human colon carcinoma cell lines were treated with 5-FU and two E1-deleted adenoviral constructs, one transferring GFP (Ad/CMV-GFP) the other bax (Ad/CEA-bax). The number of infected cells were monitored by GFP expression. To evaluate the effects of 5-FU in a receptor free system, Ad/GFP were encapsulated in liposomes and treated with 5-FU. Ad/GFP release was estimated with PCR and infection of 293 cells with the supernatant. Electron microscopy of the Ad5-GFP-liposome complex was made to investigate morphological changes of the liposomes after 5-FU.
RESULTS: Infection rates of all cell lines increased from 50% to 98% with emerging 5-FU concentrations. The enhanced viral uptake was independent of the CAR expression. Additionally, 5-FU treated liposomes released 2-2.5 times more adenoviruses. Furthermore, 5-FU-treated liposomes appeared irregular and porous-like.
CONCLUSION: adenoviral uptake is enhanced in the presence of 5-FU irrespective of CAR and is associated with morphological changes in membranes making the combination of both a promising option in gene therapy.
PMCID: PMC4088014  PMID: 16937527
5-Fluorouracil; Coxsackievirus-adenovirus receptor; Adenoviral infection; Gene therapy
15.  Adeno-associated virus-mediated heme oxygenase-1 gene transfer suppresses the progression of micronodular cirrhosis in rats 
AIM: To test the hypothesis that enhancement of the activity of heme oxygenase can interfere with processes of fibrogenesis associated with recurrent liver injury, we investigated the therapeutic potential of over-expression of heme oxygense-1 in a CCl4-induced micronodular cirrhosis model.
METHODS: Recombinant adeno-associated viruses carrying rat HO-1 or GFP gene were generated. 1×1012 vg of adeno-associated viruses were administered through portal injection at the time of the induction of liver fibrosis.
RESULTS: Conditioning the rat liver with over-expression of HO-1 by rAAV/HO-1 significantly increased the HO enzymatic activities in a stable manner. The development of micronodular cirrhosis was significantly inhibited in rAAV/HO-1-transduced animals as compared to controls. Portal hypertension was markedly diminished in rAAV/HO-1-transduced animals as compared to controls, whereas there are no significant changes in systolic blood pressure. This finding was accompanied with improved liver biochemistry, less infiltrating macrophages and less activated hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) in rAAV/HO-1-transduced livers.
CONCLUSIONS: Enhancement of HO activity in the livers suppresses the development of cirrhosis.
PMCID: PMC4087678  PMID: 16610050
Cirrhosis; Portal hypertension; Heme oxygenase; Gene therapy; Adeno-associated virus
16.  Treatment-emergent adverse events after infusion of adherent stem cells: the MiSOT-I score for solid organ transplantation 
Trials  2012;13:211.
Cellular therapy after organ transplantation is emerging as an intriguing strategy to achieve dose reduction of classical immunosuppressive pharmacotherapy. Here, we introduce a new scoring system to assess treatment-emergent adverse events (TEAEs) of adherent stem cell therapies in the clinical setting of allogeneic liver transplantation (for example, the MiSOT-I trial Eudract CT: 2009-017795-25).
The score consists of three independent modalities (set of parameters) that focus on clinically relevant events early after intravenous or intraportal stem cell infusion: pulmonary toxicity, intraportal-infusional toxicity and systemic toxicity. For each modality, values between 0 (no TEAE) and 3 (severe TEAE) were defined. The score was validated retrospectively on a cohort of n=187 recipients of liver allografts not receiving investigational cell therapy between July 2004 and December 2010. These patients represent a control population for further trials. Score values were calculated for days 1, 4, and 10 after liver transplantation.
Grade 3 events were most commonly related to the pulmonary system (3.5% of study cohort on day 4). Almost no systemic-related TEAEs were observed during the study period. The relative frequency of grade 3 events never exceeded 5% over all modalities and time points. A subgroup analysis for grade 3 patients provided no descriptors associated with severe TEAEs.
The MiSOT-I score provides an assessment tool to score specific adverse events that may occur after adherent stem cell therapy in the clinical setting of organ transplantation and is thus a helpful tool to conduct a safety study.
PMCID: PMC3543274  PMID: 23151227
Adherent adult stem cells; Mesenchymal stem cells; Multipotent adult progenitor cells; Solid organ transplantation; Immunotherapy; Scoring adverse events; Phase I trial
17.  STAT5b as Molecular Target in Pancreatic Cancer—Inhibition of Tumor Growth, Angiogenesis, and Metastases12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2012;14(10):915-925.
The prognosis of patients suffering from pancreatic cancer is still poor and novel therapeutic options are urgently needed. Recently, the transcription factor signal transducer and activator of transcription 5b (STAT5b) was associated with tumor progression in human solid cancer. Hence, we assessed whether STAT5b might serve as an anticancer target in ductal pancreatic adenocarcinoma (DPAC). We found that nuclear expression of STAT5b can be detected in approximately 50% of DPAC. Blockade of STAT5b by stable shRNA-mediated knockdown showed no effects on tumor cell growth in vitro. However, inhibition of tumor cell motility was found even in response to stimulation with epidermal growth factor or interleukin-6. These findings were paralleled by a reduction of prometastatic and proangiogenic factors in vitro. Subsequent in vivo experiments revealed a strong growth inhibition on STAT5b blockade in subcutaneous and orthotopic models. These findings were paralleled by impaired tumor angiogenesis in vivo. In contrast to the subcutaneous model, the orthotopic model revealed a strong reduction of tumor cell proliferation that emphasizes the meaning of assessing targets in an appropriate microenvironment. Taken together, our results suggest that STAT5b might be a potential novel target for human DPAC.
PMCID: PMC3479837  PMID: 23097626
18.  Treatment with bevacizumab and FOLFOXIRI in patients with advanced colorectal cancer: presentation of two novel trials (CHARTA and PERIMAX) and review of the literature 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:356.
More than half of patients with colorectal cancer will develop metastatic disease either evident at the time of initial diagnosis or during their course of disease. Besides multidisciplinary management further treatment intensification is warranted to improve the still limited prognosis.
In these two multi-centre, randomized phase II trials, conducted in Germany, 380 patients with R0-resectable colorectal liver metastases (PERIMAX) and with unresectable, metastatic colorectal cancer (CHARTA) will be recruited. Patients previously untreated for metastatic disease with either synchronous or metachronous metastases are randomly assigned in a 1:1 ratio to resection of colorectal liver metastases followed by postoperative FOLFOX for 6 months or perioperative FOLFOXIRI and bevacizumab for 3 months pre- and postoperative and resection (PERIMAX), or to induction chemotherapy with FOLFOX and bevacizumab +/− irinotecan for a maximum of 6 months followed by maintenance treatment with fluoropyrimidine and bevacizumab. The primary objective of these trials is to evaluate the feasibility and efficacy of FOLFOXIRI and bevacizumab in metastatic colorectal cancer. Primary endpoint is failure free survival rate at 18 months in the PERIMAX trial and progression free survival rate at 9 months in CHARTA. Secondary objectives include efficacy, safety and tolerability.
The CHARTA and PERIMAX trials are designed to evaluate the benefits and limitations of a highly active four-drug regimen in distinct treatment situations of metastatic CRC. Eligible patients are classified into resectable liver metastases to be randomized to perioperative treatment with FOLFOXIRI and bevacizumab or postoperative FOLFOX in the PERIMAX, or unresectable metastatic CRC to be randomized between FOLFOX and bevacizumab with or without irinotecan, stratified for clinical groups according to disease and patients’ characteristics in the CHARTA trial.
Trial registration
Clinical trial identifier CHARTA: NCT01321957, PERIMAX: NCT01540435
PMCID: PMC3503684  PMID: 22897915
FOLFOXIRI; Bevacizumab; Metastatic colorectal cancer; Resectable liver metastases
19.  Google Goes Cancer: Improving Outcome Prediction for Cancer Patients by Network-Based Ranking of Marker Genes 
PLoS Computational Biology  2012;8(5):e1002511.
Predicting the clinical outcome of cancer patients based on the expression of marker genes in their tumors has received increasing interest in the past decade. Accurate predictors of outcome and response to therapy could be used to personalize and thereby improve therapy. However, state of the art methods used so far often found marker genes with limited prediction accuracy, limited reproducibility, and unclear biological relevance. To address this problem, we developed a novel computational approach to identify genes prognostic for outcome that couples gene expression measurements from primary tumor samples with a network of known relationships between the genes. Our approach ranks genes according to their prognostic relevance using both expression and network information in a manner similar to Google's PageRank. We applied this method to gene expression profiles which we obtained from 30 patients with pancreatic cancer, and identified seven candidate marker genes prognostic for outcome. Compared to genes found with state of the art methods, such as Pearson correlation of gene expression with survival time, we improve the prediction accuracy by up to 7%. Accuracies were assessed using support vector machine classifiers and Monte Carlo cross-validation. We then validated the prognostic value of our seven candidate markers using immunohistochemistry on an independent set of 412 pancreatic cancer samples. Notably, signatures derived from our candidate markers were independently predictive of outcome and superior to established clinical prognostic factors such as grade, tumor size, and nodal status. As the amount of genomic data of individual tumors grows rapidly, our algorithm meets the need for powerful computational approaches that are key to exploit these data for personalized cancer therapies in clinical practice.
Author Summary
Why do some people with the same type of cancer die early and some live long? Apart from influences from the environment and personal lifestyle, we believe that differences in the individual tumor genome account for different survival times. Recently, powerful methods have become available to systematically read genomic information of patient samples. The major remaining challenge is how to spot, among the thousands of changes, those few that are relevant for tumor aggressiveness and thereby affecting patient survival. Here, we make use of the fact that genes and proteins in a cell never act alone, but form a network of interactions. Finding the relevant information in big networks of web documents and hyperlinks has been mastered by Google with their PageRank algorithm. Similar to PageRank, we have developed an algorithm that can identify genes that are better indicators for survival than genes found by traditional algorithms. Our method can aid the clinician in deciding if a patient should receive chemotherapy or not. Reliable prediction of survival and response to therapy based on molecular markers bears a great potential to improve and personalize patient therapies in the future.
PMCID: PMC3355064  PMID: 22615549
20.  Safety and feasibility of third-party multipotent adult progenitor cells for immunomodulation therapy after liver transplantation--a phase I study (MISOT-I) 
Liver transplantation is the definitive treatment for many end-stage liver diseases. However, the life-long immunosuppression needed to prevent graft rejection causes clinically significant side effects. Cellular immunomodulatory therapies may allow the dose of immunosuppressive drugs to be reduced. In the current protocol, we propose to complement immunosuppressive pharmacotherapy with third-party multipotent adult progenitor cells (MAPCs), a culture-selected population of adult adherent stem cells derived from bone marrow that has been shown to display potent immunomodulatory and regenerative properties. In animal models, MAPCs reduce the need for pharmacological immunosuppression after experimental solid organ transplantation and regenerate damaged organs.
Patients enrolled in this phase I, single-arm, single-center safety and feasibility study (n = 3-24) will receive 2 doses of third-party MAPCs after liver transplantation, on days 1 and 3, in addition to a calcineurin-inhibitor-free "bottom-up" immunosuppressive regimen with basiliximab, mycophenolic acid, and steroids. The study objective is to evaluate the safety and clinical feasibility of MAPC administration in this patient cohort. The primary endpoint of the study is safety, assessed by standardized dose-limiting toxicity events. One secondary endpoint is the time until first biopsy-proven acute rejection, in order to collect first evidence of efficacy. Dose escalation (150, 300, 450, and 600 million MAPCs) will be done according to a 3 + 3 classical escalation design (4 groups of 3-6 patients each).
If MAPCs are safe for patients undergoing liver transplantation in this study, a phase II/III trial will be conducted to assess their clinical efficacy.
PMCID: PMC3166276  PMID: 21798013
21.  DX5+NKT cells display phenotypical and functional differences between spleen and liver as well as NK1.1-Balb/c and NK1.1+ C57Bl/6 mice 
BMC Immunology  2011;12:26.
Natural killer T cells represent a linkage between innate and adaptive immunity. They are a heterogeneous population of specialized T lymphocytes composed of different subsets. DX5+NKT cells are characterized by expression of the NK cell marker DX5 in the context of CD3. However, little is known about the phenotype and functional capacity of this unique cell population. Therefore, we investigated the expression of several T cell and NK cell markers, as well as functional parameters in spleen and liver subsets of DX5+NKT cells in NK1.1- Balb/c mice and compared our findings to NK1.1+ C57Bl/6 mice.
In the spleen 34% of DX5+NKT cells expressed CD62L and they up-regulated the functional receptors CD154 as well as CD178 upon activation. In contrast, only a few liver DX5+NKT cells expressed CD62L, and they did not up-regulate CD154 upon activation. A further difference between spleen and liver subsets was observed in cytokine production. Spleen DX5+NKT cells produced more Th1 cytokines including IL-2, IFN-γ and TNF-α, while liver DX5+NKT cells secreted more Th2 cytokines (e.g. IL-4) and even the Th17 cytokine, IL-17a. Furthermore, we found inter-strain differences. In NK1.1+ C57Bl/6 mice DX5+NKT cells represented a distinct T cell population expressing less CD4 and more CD8. Accordingly, these cells showed a CD178 and Th2-type functional capacity upon activation.
These results show that DX5+NKT cells are a heterogeneous population, depending on the dedicated organ and mouse strain, that has diverse functional capacity.
PMCID: PMC3097004  PMID: 21529347
22.  Activating transcription factor-3 (ATF3) functions as a tumor suppressor in colon cancer and is up-regulated upon heat-shock protein 90 (Hsp90) inhibition 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:668.
Activating transcription factor-3 (ATF3) is involved in the complex process of cellular stress response. However, its exact role in cancer is discussed controversially because both tumor suppressive and oncogenic effects have been described. Here we followed-up on our previous observation that inhibition of Hsp90 may increase ATF3 expression and sought to determine the role of ATF3 in colon cancer.
Regulation of ATF3 was determined in cancer cells using signaling inhibitors and a heat-shock protein-90 (Hsp90) antagonist. Human HCT116 cancer cells were stably transfected with an ATF3-shRNA or a luciferase-shRNA expression plasmid and alterations in cell motility were assessed in migration assays. The impact of ATF3 down-regulation on cancer growth and metastasis were investigated in a subcutaneous tumor model, a model of hepatic tumor growth and in a model of peritoneal carcinomatosis. Human colon cancer tissues were analyzed for ATF3 expression.
The results show that therapeutic Hsp90 inhibition substantially up-regulates the expression of ATF3 in various cancer cells, including colon, gastric and pancreatic cancer. This effect was evident both in vitro and in vivo. RNAi mediated knock-down of ATF3 in HCT116 colon cancer cells significantly increased cancer cell migration in vitro. Moreover, in xenogenic mouse models, ATF3 knock-down promoted subcutaneous tumor growth and hepatic metastasis, as well as peritoneal carcinomatosis. Importantly, ATF3 expression was lower in human colon cancer specimens, as compared to corresponding normal surrounding tissues, suggesting that ATF3 may represent a down-regulated tumor suppressor in colon cancer.
In conclusion, ATF3 down-regulation in colon cancer promotes tumor growth and metastasis. Considering that blocking Hsp90 induces ATF3 expression, Hsp90 inhibition may represent a valid strategy to treat metastatic colon cancer by up-regulating this anti-metastatic transcription factor.
PMCID: PMC3003660  PMID: 21129190
23.  Study Protocol: A Pilot Study to Determine the Safety and Efficacy of Induction-Therapy, De Novo MPA and Delayed mTOR-Inhibition in Liver Transplant Recipients with Impaired Renal Function. PATRON-Study 
BMC Nephrology  2010;11:24.
Patients undergoing liver transplantation with preexisting renal dysfunction are prone to further renal impairment with the early postoperative use of Calcineurin-inhibitors. However, there is only little scientific evidence for the safety and efficacy of de novo CNI free "bottom-up" regimens in patients with impaired renal function undergoing liver transplantation. This is a single-center study pilot-study (PATRON07) investigating safety and efficacy of CNI-free, "bottom-up" immunosuppressive (IS) strategy in patients undergoing liver transplantation (LT) with renal impairment prior to LT.
Patients older than 18 years with renal impairment at the time of liver transplantation eGFR < 50 ml/min and/or serum creatinine levels > 1.5 mg/dL will be included. Patients in will receive a CNI-free combination therapy (basiliximab, MMF, steroids and delayed Sirolimus). Primary endpoint is the incidence of steroid resistant acute rejection within the first 30 days after LT. The study is designed as prospective two-step trial requiring a maximum of 29 patients. In the first step, 9 patients will be included. If 8 or more patients show no signs of biopsy proven steroid resistant rejection, additional 20 patients will be included. If in the second step a total of 27 or more patients reach the primary endpoint the regimen is regarded to be safe and efficient.
If a CNI-free-"bottom-up" IS strategy is safe and effective, this may be an innovative concept in contrast to classic top-down strategies that could improve the patient short and long-time renal function as well as overall complications and survival after LT. The results of PATRON07 may be the basis for a large multicenter RCT investigating the new "bottom-up" immunosuppressive strategy in patients with poor renal function prior to LT. NCT00604357
PMCID: PMC2945344  PMID: 20840760
24.  Successful treatment of a severely injured soldier from Afghanistan with pumpless extracorporeal lung assist and neurally adjusted ventilatory support 
Life-threatening acute lung injury due to combat and/or terror attacks is associated with high mortality. The successful management includes the use of “rescue” extracorporeal lung assist and early transport by aeromedical evacuation teams.
Description of the pre-hospital support of a severely injured soldier with a pumpless extracorporeal arterio-venous lung assist in critical hypercapnia/hypoxemia.
A British soldier suffered from severe gunshot injuries to the chest and abdomen in Afghanistan. After traumatic pneumonectomy, he developed critical hypercapnia/hypoxemia. He was mechanically ventilated and supported with a pumpless interventional extracorporeal lung assist (iLA, Novalung, Talheim, Germany) and transferred to Germany.
A sufficient CO2 extraction and improvement in oxygenation enabled the safe transportation and lung protective ventilation. Weaning from mechanical ventilation was promoted by the application of a new neurally adjusted ventilatory assist (NAVA). The patient recovered, and he left Germany in stable condition.
Novel techniques in extracorporeal lung assist and in ventilatory support may help save lives even in disaster medicine.
PMCID: PMC2926866  PMID: 21031042
Traumatic lung injury; Extracorporeal lung assist; Disaster medicine; Neurally adjusted ventilatory assist
25.  A prospective randomised, open-labeled, trial comparing sirolimus-containing versus mTOR-inhibitor-free immunosuppression in patients undergoing liver transplantation for hepatocellular carcinoma 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:190.
The potential anti-cancer effects of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitors are being intensively studied. To date, however, few randomised clinical trials (RCT) have been performed to demonstrate anti-neoplastic effects in the pure oncology setting, and at present, no oncology endpoint-directed RCT has been reported in the high-malignancy risk population of immunosuppressed transplant recipients. Interestingly, since mTOR inhibitors have both immunosuppressive and anti-cancer effects, they have the potential to simultaneously protect against immunologic graft loss and tumour development. Therefore, we designed a prospective RCT to determine if the mTOR inhibitor sirolimus can improve hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)-free patient survival in liver transplant (LT) recipients with a pre-transplant diagnosis of HCC.
The study is an open-labelled, randomised, RCT comparing sirolimus-containing versus mTOR-inhibitor-free immunosuppression in patients undergoing LT for HCC. Patients with a histologically confirmed HCC diagnosis are randomised into 2 groups within 4-6 weeks after LT; one arm is maintained on a centre-specific mTOR-inhibitor-free immunosuppressive protocol and the second arm is maintained on a centre-specific mTOR-inhibitor-free immunosuppressive protocol for the first 4-6 weeks, at which time sirolimus is initiated. A 21/2 -year recruitment phase is planned with a 5-year follow-up, testing HCC-free survival as the primary endpoint. Our hypothesis is that sirolimus use in the second arm of the study will improve HCC-free survival. The study is a non-commercial investigator-initiated trial (IIT) sponsored by the University Hospital Regensburg and is endorsed by the European Liver and Intestine Transplant Association; 13 countries within Europe, Canada and Australia are participating.
If our hypothesis is correct that mTOR inhibition can reduce HCC tumour growth while simultaneously providing immunosuppression to protect the liver allograft from rejection, patients should experience less post-transplant problems with HCC recurrence, and therefore could expect a longer and better quality of life. A positive outcome will likely change the standard of posttransplant immunosuppressive care for LT patients with HCC.
Trial Register
Trial registered at NCT00355862
(EudraCT Number: 2005-005362-36)
PMCID: PMC2889889  PMID: 20459775

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