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author:("versa, Gregor")
1.  Mcam Silencing With RNA Interference Using Magnetofection has Antitumor Effect in Murine Melanoma 
The melanoma cell adhesion molecule (MCAM) is involved in melanoma development and its progression, including invasiveness, metastatic potential and angiogenesis. Therefore, MCAM represents a potential target for gene therapy of melanoma, whose expression could be hindered with posttranscriptional specific gene silencing with RNA interference technology. In this study, we constructed a plasmid DNA encoding short hairpin RNA against MCAM (pMCAM) to explore the antitumor and antiangiogenic effects. The experiments were performed in vitro on murine melanoma and endothelial cells, as well as in vivo on melanoma tumors in mice. The antiproliferative, antimigratory, antiangiogenic and antitumor effects were examined after gene therapy with pMCAM. Gene delivery was performed by magnetofection, and its efficacy compared to gene electrotransfer. Gene therapy with pMCAM has proved to be an effective approach in reducing the proliferation and migration of melanoma cells, as well as having antiangiogenic effect in endothelial cells and antitumor effect on melanoma tumors. Magnetofection as a developing nonviral gene delivery system was effective in the transfection of melanoma cells and tumors with pMCAM, but less efficient than gene electrotransfer in in vivo tumor gene therapy due to the lack of antiangiogenic effect after silencing Mcam by magnetofection.
PMCID: PMC4217080  PMID: 25350580
2.  Evaluation of p21 promoter for interleukin 12 radiation induced transcriptional targeting in a mouse tumor model 
Molecular Cancer  2013;12:136.
Radiation induced transcriptional targeting is a gene therapy approach that takes advantage of the targeting abilities of radiotherapy by using radio inducible promoters to spatially and temporally limit the transgene expression. Cyclin dependent kinase inhibitor 1 (CDKN1A), also known as p21, is a crucial regulator of the cell cycle, mediating G1 phase arrest in response to a variety of stress stimuli, including DNA damaging agents like irradiation. The aim of the study was to evaluate the suitability of the p21 promoter for radiation induced transcriptional targeting with the objective to test the therapeutic effectiveness of the combined radio-gene therapy with p21 promoter driven therapeutic gene interleukin 12.
To test the inducibility of the p21 promoter, three reporter gene experimental models with green fluorescent protein (GFP) under the control of p21 promoter were established by gene electrotransfer of plasmid DNA: stably transfected cells, stably transfected tumors, and transiently transfected muscles. Induction of reporter gene expression after irradiation was determined using a fluorescence microplate reader in vitro and by non-invasive fluorescence imaging using fluorescence stereomicroscope in vivo. The antitumor effect of the plasmid encoding the p21 promoter driven interleukin 12 after radio-gene therapy was determined by tumor growth delay assay and by quantification of intratumoral and serum levels of interleukin 12 protein and intratumoral concentrations of interleukin 12 mRNA.
Using the reporter gene experimental models, p21 promoter was proven to be inducible with radiation, the induction was not dose dependent, and it could be re-induced. Furthermore radio-gene therapy with interleukin 12 under control of the p21 promoter had a good antitumor therapeutic effect with the statistically relevant tumor growth delay, which was comparable to that of the same therapy using a constitutive promoter.
In this study p21 promoter was proven to be a suitable candidate for radiation induced transcriptional targeting. As a proof of principle the therapeutic value was demonstrated with the radio-inducible interleukin 12 plasmid providing a synergistic antitumor effect to radiotherapy alone, which makes this approach feasible for the combined treatment with radiotherapy.
PMCID: PMC3832904  PMID: 24219565
Gene therapy; Transcriptional targeting; p21 promoter; Interleukin 12; Mouse tumor model; Radiotherapy; Plasmid DNA; Gene electrotransfer
3.  Magnetofection: A Reproducible Method for Gene Delivery to Melanoma Cells 
BioMed Research International  2013;2013:209452.
Magnetofection is a nanoparticle-mediated approach for transfection of cells, tissues, and tumors. Specific interest is in using superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs) as delivery system of therapeutic genes. Magnetofection has already been described in some proof-of-principle studies; however, fine tuning of the synthesis of SPIONs is necessary for its broader application. Physicochemical properties of SPIONs, synthesized by the co-precipitation in an alkaline aqueous medium, were tested after varying different parameters of the synthesis procedure. The storage time of iron(II) sulfate salt, the type of purified water, and the synthesis temperature did not affect physicochemical properties of SPIONs. Also, varying the parameters of the synthesis procedure did not influence magnetofection efficacy. However, for the pronounced gene expression encoded by plasmid DNA it was crucial to functionalize poly(acrylic) acid-stabilized SPIONs (SPIONs-PAA) with polyethyleneimine (PEI) without the adjustment of its elementary alkaline pH water solution to the physiological pH. In conclusion, the co-precipitation of iron(II) and iron(III) sulfate salts with subsequent PAA stabilization, PEI functionalization, and plasmid DNA binding is a robust method resulting in a reproducible and efficient magnetofection. To achieve high gene expression is important, however, the pH of PEI water solution for SPIONs-PAA functionalization, which should be in the alkaline range.
PMCID: PMC3686069  PMID: 23862136
4.  Differential Mechanisms Associated with Vascular Disrupting Action of Electrochemotherapy: Intravital Microscopy on the Level of Single Normal and Tumor Blood Vessels 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59557.
Electropermeabilization/electroporation (EP) provides a tool for the introduction of molecules into cells and tissues. In electrochemotherapy (ECT), cytotoxic drugs are introduced into cells in tumors, and nucleic acids are introduced into cells in gene electrotransfer. The normal and tumor tissue blood flow modifying effects of EP and the vascular disrupting effect of ECT in tumors have already been determined. However, differential effects between normal vs. tumor vessels, to ensure safety in the clinical application of ECT, have not been determined yet. Therefore, the aim of our study was to determine the effects of EP and ECT with bleomycin on the HT-29 human colon carcinoma tumor model and its surrounding blood vessels. The response of blood vessels to EP and ECT was monitored in real time, directly at the single blood vessel level, by in vivo optical imaging in a dorsal window chamber in SCID mice with 70 kDa fluorescently labeled dextrans. The response of tumor blood vessels to EP and ECT started to differ within the first hour. Both therapies induced a vascular lock, decreased functional vascular density (FVD) and increased the diameter of functional blood vessels within the tumor. The effects were more pronounced for ECT, which destroyed the tumor blood vessels within 24 h. Although the vasculature surrounding the tumor was affected by EP and ECT, it remained functional. The study confirms the current model of tumor blood flow modifying effects of EP and provides conclusive evidence that ECT is a vascular disrupting therapy with a specific effect on the tumor blood vessels.
PMCID: PMC3608732  PMID: 23555705
5.  Multiple Delivery of siRNA against Endoglin into Murine Mammary Adenocarcinoma Prevents Angiogenesis and Delays Tumor Growth 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58723.
Endoglin is a transforming growth factor-β (TGF- β) co-receptor that participates in the activation of a signaling pathway that mediates endothelial cell proliferation and migration in angiogenic tumor vasculature. Therefore, silencing of endoglin expression is an attractive approach for antiangiogenic therapy of tumors. The aim of our study was to evaluate the therapeutic potential of small interfering RNA (siRNA) molecules against endoglin in vitro and in vivo. Therapeutic potential in vitro was assessed in human and murine endothelial cells (HMEC-1, 2H11) by determining endoglin expression level, cell proliferation and tube formation. In vivo, the therapeutic potential of siRNA molecules was evaluated in TS/A mammary adenocarcinoma growing in BALB/c mice. Results of our study showed that siRNA molecules against endoglin have a good antiangiogenic therapeutic potential in vitro, as expression of endoglin mRNA and protein levels in mouse and human microvascular endothelial cells after lipofection were efficiently reduced, which resulted in the inhibition of endothelial cell proliferation and tube formation. In vivo, silencing of endoglin with triple electrotransfer of siRNA molecules into TS/A mammary adenocarcinoma also significantly reduced the mRNA levels, number of tumor blood vessels and the growth of tumors. The obtained results demonstrate that silencing of endoglin is a promising antiangiogenic therapy of tumors that could not be used as single treatment, but as an adjunct to the established cytotoxic treatment approaches.
PMCID: PMC3589348  PMID: 23593103
6.  Tumor size and effectiveness of electrochemotherapy 
Radiology and Oncology  2013;47(1):32-41.
Electrochemotherapy (ECT) is an effective and safe method for local treatment of tumors. However, relatively large variability in effectiveness of ECT has been observed, which likely results from different treatment conditions and tumor characteristics. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between tumor size and effectiveness of a single-session ECT.
Materials and methods
A systematic search of various bibliographic databases was performed and nine studies eligible for this study were extracted. Different statistical methods including meta-analysis were applied to analyze the data.
The results of analysis based on data from 1466 tumors of any histotype show significantly lower effectiveness of ECT on tumors with maximal diameter equal to or larger than 3 cm (complete response (CR) of 33.3%, objective response (OR) of 68.2%) in comparison to smaller tumors (CR% of 59.5%, OR% of 85.7%). The results of meta-analysis indicated that ECT performed on tumors smaller than 3 cm statistically significantly increases the probability of CR by 31.0% and OR by 24.9% on average in comparison to larger tumors. The analysis of raw data about the size and response of tumors showed statistically significant decrease in effectiveness of ECT progressively with increasing tumor diameter. The biggest drop in CR% was detected at tumor diameters as small as 2 cm.
The standard operating procedures for ECT should be reexamined and refined for the treatment of large tumors. We propose that future clinical trials should include accurate ECT treatment planning and/or multiple ECT cycles, besides a prolonged observation for tumor response evaluation.
PMCID: PMC3573832  PMID: 23450195
electrochemotherapy; cutaneous tumors; effectiveness; tumor size; meta-analysis
7.  Radiosensitizing effect of intratumoral interleukin-12 gene electrotransfer in murine sarcoma 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:38.
Interleukin-12 (IL-12) based radiosensitization is an effective way of tumor treatment. Local cytokine production, without systemic shedding, might provide clinical benefit in radiation treatment of sarcomas. Therefore, the aim was to stimulate intratumoral IL-12 production by gene electrotransfer of plasmid coding for mouse IL-12 (mIL-12) into the tumors, in order to explore its radiosensitizing effect after single or multiple intratumoral gene electrotransfer.
Solid SA-1 fibrosarcoma tumors, on the back of A/J mice, were treated intratumorally by mIL-12 gene electrotransfer and 24 h later irradiated with a single dose. Treatment effectiveness was measured by tumor growth delay and local tumor control assay (TCD50 assay). With respect to therapeutic index, skin reaction in the radiation field was scored. The tumor and serum concentrations of cytokines mIL-12 and mouse interferon γ (mIFNγ) were measured. Besides single, also multiple intratumoral mIL-12 gene electrotransfer before and after tumor irradiation was evaluated.
Single intratumoral mIL-12 gene electrotransfer resulted in increased intratumoral but not serum mIL-12 and mIFNγ concentrations, and had good antitumor (7.1% tumor cures) and radiosensitizing effect (21.4% tumor cures). Combined treatment resulted in the radiation dose-modifying factor of 2.16. Multiple mIL-12 gene electrotransfer had an even more pronounced antitumor (50% tumor cures) and radiosensitizing (86.7% tumor cures) effect.
Single or multiple intratumoral mIL-12 gene electrotransfer resulted in increased intratumoral mIL-12 and mIFNγ cytokine level, and may provide an efficient treatment modality for soft tissue sarcoma as single or adjuvant therapy to tumor irradiation.
PMCID: PMC3562515  PMID: 23360213
IL-12; Gene electrotransfer; Irradiation; Sarcoma; Mice
8.  Hyaluronidase and Collagenase Increase the Transfection Efficiency of Gene Electrotransfer in Various Murine Tumors 
Human Gene Therapy  2011;23(1):128-137.
One of the applications of electroporation/electropulsation in biomedicine is gene electrotransfer, the wider use of which is hindered by low transfection efficiency in vivo compared with viral vectors. The aim of our study was to determine whether modulation of the extracellular matrix in solid tumors, using collagenase and hyaluronidase, could increase the transfection efficiency of gene electrotransfer in histologically different solid subcutaneous tumors in mice. Tumors were treated with enzymes before electrotransfer of plasmid DNA encoding either green fluorescent protein or luciferase. Transfection efficiency was determined 3, 9, and 15 days posttransfection. We demonstrated that pretreatment of tumors with a combination of enzymes significantly increased the transfection efficiency of electrotransfer in tumors with a high extracellular matrix area (LPB fibrosarcoma). In tumors with a smaller extracellular matrix area and less organized collagen lattice, the increase was not so pronounced (SA-1 fibrosarcoma and EAT carcinoma), whereas in B16 melanoma, in which only traces of collagen are present, pretreatment of tumors with hyaluronidase alone was more efficient than pretreatment with both enzymes. In conclusion, our results suggest that modification of the extracellular matrix could improve distribution of plasmid DNA in solid subcutaneous tumors, demonstrated by an increase in transfection efficiency, and thus have important clinical implications for electrogene therapy.
Cemazar and colleagues evaluate the effect of collagenase and hyaluronidase pretreatment of solid mouse subcutaneous tumors in the transfection efficiency of subsequent gene electrotransfer. Enzymatic pretreatment increases transfection efficiency, particularly in tumors with a greater extracellular matrix area.
PMCID: PMC3260441  PMID: 21797718
9.  Potentiation of electrochemotherapy by intramuscular IL-12 gene electrotransfer in murine sarcoma and carcinoma with different immunogenicity 
Radiology and Oncology  2012;46(4):302-311.
Electrochemotherapy provides good local tumor control but requires adjuvant treatment for increased local response and action on distant metastasis. In relation to this, intramuscular interleukin-12 (IL-12) gene electro-transfer, which provides systemic shedding of IL-12, was combined with local electrochemotherapy with cisplatin. Furthermore, the dependence on tumor immunogenicity and immunocompetence of the host on combined treatment response was evaluated.
Materials and methods.
Sensitivity of SA-1 sarcoma and TS/A carcinoma cells to electrochemotherapy with cisplatin was tested in vitro. In vivo, intratumoral electrochemotherapy with cisplatin (day 1) was combined with a single (day 0) or multiple (days 0, 2, 4) intramuscular murine IL-12 (mIL-12) gene electrotransfer. The antitumor effectiveness of combined treatment was evaluated on immunogenic murine SA-1 sarcoma in A/J mice and moderately immunogenic murine TS/A carcinoma, in immunocompetent BALB/c and immunodeficient SCID mice.
Electrochemotherapy in vitro resulted in a similar IC50 values for both sarcoma and carcinoma cell lines. However, in vivo electrochemotherapy was more effective in the treatment of sarcoma, the more immunogenic of the tumors, resulting in a higher log cell kill, longer specific tumor growth delay, and also 17% tumor cures compared to carcinoma where no tumor cures were observed. Adjuvant intramuscular mIL-12 gene electrotransfer increased the log cell kill in both tumor models, potentiating the specific tumor growth delay by a factor of 1.8-2 and increasing tumor cure rate by approximately 20%. In sarcoma tumors, the potentiation of the response by intramuscular mIL-12 gene electrotransfer was dose-dependent and also resulted in a faster onset of tumor cures. Comparison of the carcinoma response to the combined treatment modality in immunocompetent and immunodeficient mice demonstrated that the immune system is needed both for increased cell kill and for attaining tumor cures.
Based on the comparison of the antitumor effectiveness of electrochemotherapy to intratumoral cisplatin administration, we can conclude that the fraction of cells killed and the tumor cure rate are higher in immunogenic sarcoma tumor compared to moderately immunogenic carcinoma tumor. The tumor cell kill and cure rate depend on the immune response elicited by the destroyed tumor cells, which might depend on the tumor immunogenicity. The effect of adjuvant intramuscular mIL-12 gene electrotransfer is dependent on the amount of IL-12 in the system and the immune competence of the host, as demonstrated by the dose-dependent increase in the cure rate of SA-1 tumors after multiple intramuscular mIL-12 gene electrotransfer and in the differential cure rate of TS/A tumors growing in immunocompetent and immunodeficient mice.
PMCID: PMC3572893  PMID: 23412658
IL-12; gene electrotransfer; cisplatin; electrochemotherapy; sarcoma; carcinoma; mice
10.  IL-12 based gene therapy in veterinary medicine 
The use of large animals as an experimental model for novel treatment techniques has many advantages over the use of laboratory animals, so veterinary medicine is becoming an increasingly important translational bridge between preclinical studies and human medicine. The results of preclinical studies show that gene therapy with therapeutic gene encoding interleukin-12 (IL-12) displays pronounced antitumor effects in various tumor models. A number of different studies employing this therapeutic plasmid, delivered by either viral or non-viral methods, have also been undertaken in veterinary oncology. In cats, adenoviral delivery into soft tissue sarcomas has been employed. In horses, naked plasmid DNA has been delivered by direct intratumoral injection into nodules of metastatic melanoma. In dogs, various types of tumors have been treated with either local or systemic IL-12 electrogene therapy. The results of these studies show that IL-12 based gene therapy elicits a good antitumor effect on spontaneously occurring tumors in large animals, while being safe and well tolerated by the animals. Hopefully, such results will lead to further investigation of this therapy in veterinary medicine and successful translation into human clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC3543347  PMID: 23171444
Interleukin-12; Interferon-γ; Gene therapy; Dogs; Cats; Horses; Plasmid; Electroporation
11.  Contrasting effect of recombinant human erythropoietin on breast cancer cell response to cisplatin induced cytotoxicity 
Radiology and Oncology  2012;46(3):213-225.
Human recombinant erythropoietin (rHuEpo) that is used for the treatment of the chemotherapy-induced anaemia in cancer patients was shown to cause detrimental effects on the course of disease due to increased adverse events inflicting patient’s survival, potentially related to rHuEpo-induced cancer progression. In this study, we elucidate the effect of rHuEpo administration on breast cancer cell proliferation and gene expression after cisplatin (cDDP) induced cytotoxicity.
Materials and methods
Two breast carcinoma models, MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cell lines, were used differing in oestrogen (ER) and progesterone (PR) receptors and p53 status. Cells were cultured with or without rHuEpo for 24 h or 9 weeks and their growth characteristics after cDDP treatment were assessed together with expression of genes involved in the p53-signaling pathway.
Short-term exposure of breast cancer cells to rHuEpo lowers their proliferation and reduces cDDP cytotoxic potency. In contrast, long-term exposure of MCF-7 cells to rHuEpo increases proliferation and predisposes MCF-7 cells to cDDP cytotoxicity, but has no effect on MDA-MB-231 cells. MDA-MB-231 cells show altered level of ERK phosphorylation, indicating involvement of MAPK signalling pathway. Gene expression analysis of p53-dependent genes and bcl-2 gene family members confirmed differences between long and short-term rHuEpo effects, indicating the most prominent changes in BCL2 and BAD expression.
Proliferation and survival characteristics of MCF-7 cells are reversely modulated by the length of the rHuEpo exposure. On the other hand, MDA-MB-231 cells are almost irresponsive to long-term rHuEpo, supposedly due to the mutated p53 and ER(+)/PR(−) status. The p53 and ER/PR status may predict tumour response on rHuEpo and cDDP treatment.
PMCID: PMC3472952  PMID: 23077460
breast cancer; erythropoietin; cisplatin; cytotoxicity
12.  In Vivo Molecular Imaging and Histological Analysis of Changes Induced by Electric Pulses Used for Plasmid DNA Electrotransfer to the Skin: A Study in a Dorsal Window Chamber in Mice 
The Journal of Membrane Biology  2012;245(9):545-554.
Electropermeabilization/electroporation (EP) is a physical method that by application of electric pulses to cells increases cell membrane permeability and enables the introduction of molecules into the cells. One of the uses of EP in vivo is plasmid DNA electrotransfer to the skin for DNA vaccination. EP of tissues induces reduction of blood flow and, in combination with plasmid DNA, induction of an immune response. One of the EP protocols for plasmid DNA electrotransfer to the skin is a combination of high-voltage (HV) and low-voltage (LV) pulses. However, the effects of this pulse combination on skin-vessel blood flow are not known. Therefore, using intravital microscopy in a dorsal window chamber in mice and fluorescently labeled dextrans, the effects of one HV and eight LV pulses on skin vasculature were investigated. In addition, a detailed histological analysis was performed. Image analysis of fluorescence intensity changes demonstrated that EP induces a transient constriction and increased permeability of blood vessels as well as a “vascular lock.” Histological analysis revealed rounding up of endothelial cells and stacking up of erythrocytes at 1 h after EP. In addition, extravasation of erythrocytes and leukocyte infiltration accompanied by edema were determined up to 24 h after EP. In conclusion, our results show that blood flow modifying effects of EP in skin contribute to the infiltration of immune cells in the exposed area. When combined with plasmid DNA for vaccination, this could enable the initial and prolonged contact of immune cells with encoded therapeutic proteins.
PMCID: PMC3464392  PMID: 22644389
Electropermeabilization; Electroporation; Blood vessel; Permeability; Vasoconstriction; Vascular lock; Immune cell infiltration; Plasmid DNA
13.  Assessment of the tumourigenic and metastatic properties of SK-MEL28 melanoma cells surviving electrochemotherapy with bleomycin 
Radiology and Oncology  2012;46(1):32-45.
Electrochemotherapy is a local treatment combining chemotherapy and electroporation and is highly effective treatment approach for subcutaneous tumours of various histologies. Contrary to surgery and radiation, the effect of electrochemotherapy on metastatic potential of tumour cells has not been extensively studied. The aim of the study was to evaluate the effect of electrochemotherapy with bleomycin on the metastatic potential of human melanoma cells in vitro.
Materials and methods
Viable cells 48 hours after electrochemotherapy were tested for their ability to migrate and invade through Matrigel coated porous membrane. In addition, microarray analysis and quantitative Real-Time PCR were used to detect changes in gene expression after electrochemotherapy.
Cell migration and invasion were not changed in melanoma cells surviving electrochemotherapy. Interestingly, only a low number of tumourigenesis related genes was differentially expressed after electrochemotherapy.
Our data suggest that metastatic potential of human melanoma cells is not affected by electrochemotherapy with bleomycin, confirming safe role of electrochemotherapy in the clinics.
PMCID: PMC3423760  PMID: 22933978
bleomycin; electrochemotherapy; electroporation; metastatic potential; melanoma; microarray analysis
14.  Magnetic nanoparticles as targeted delivery systems in oncology 
Radiology and Oncology  2011;45(1):1-16.
Many different types of nanoparticles, magnetic nanoparticles being just a category among them, offer exciting opportunities for technologies at the interfaces between chemistry, physics and biology. Some magnetic nanoparticles have already been utilized in clinical practice as contrast enhancing agents for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). However, their physicochemical properties are constantly being improved upon also for other biological applications, such as magnetically-guided delivery systems for different therapeutics. By exposure of magnetic nanoparticles with attached therapeutics to an external magnetic field with appropriate characteristics, they are concentrated and retained at the preferred site which enables the targeted delivery of therapeutics to the desired spot.
The idea of binding chemotherapeutics to magnetic nanoparticles has been around for 30 years, however, no magnetic nanoparticles as delivery systems have yet been approved for clinical practice. Recently, binding of nucleic acids to magnetic nanoparticles has been demonstrated as a successful non-viral transfection method of different cell lines in vitro. With the optimization of this method called magnetofection, it will hopefully become another form of gene delivery for the treatment of cancer.
PMCID: PMC3423716  PMID: 22933928
magnetic nanoparticles; nanotechnology; delivery systems; oncology; magnetofection; cancer therapy; magnetic targeting
15.  Electrogene therapy with interleukin-12 in canine mast cell tumors 
Radiology and Oncology  2010;45(1):31-39.
Mast cell tumors (MCT) are the most common malignant cutaneous tumors in dogs with extremely variable biological behaviour. Different treatment approaches can be used in canine cutaneous MCT, with surgical excision being the treatment of choice. In this study, electrogene therapy (EGT) as a new therapeutic approach to canine MCTs, was established.
Materials and methods.
Eight dogs with a total of eleven cutaneous MCTs were treated with intratumoral EGT using DNA plasmid encoding human interleukin-12 (IL-12). The local response to the therapy was evaluated by repeated measurements of tumor size and histological examination of treated tumors. A possible systemic response was assessed by determination of IL-12 and interferon- γ (IFN-γ) in patients’ sera. The occurence of side effects was monitored with weekly clinical examinations of treated animals and by performing basic bloodwork, consisting of the complete bloodcount and determination of selected biochemistry parameters.
Intratumoral EGT with IL-12 elicits significant reduction of treated tumors’ size, ranging from 13% to 83% (median 50%) of the initial tumor volume. Additionally, a change in the histological structure of treated nodules was seen. There was a reduction in number of malignant mast cells and inflammatory cell infiltration of treated tumors. Systemic release of IL-12 in four patients was detected, without any noticeable local or systemic side effects.
These data suggest that intratumoral EGT with plasmid encoding IL-12 may be useful in the treatment of canine MCTs, exerting a local antitumor effect.
PMCID: PMC3423723  PMID: 22933932
electroporation; electrotransfection; electrogene therapy; mast cell tumors; IL-12; IFN-γ
16.  Electrochemotherapy of Tumours 
Electrochemotherapy is a combined use of certain chemotherapeutic drugs and electric pulses applied to the treated tumour nodule. Local application of electric pulses to the tumour increases drug delivery into cells, specifically at the site of electric pulse application. Drug uptake by delivery of electric pulses is increased for only those chemotherapeutic drugs whose transport through the plasma membrane is impeded. Among many drugs that have been tested so far, bleomycin and cisplatin found their way from preclinical testing to clinical use. Clinical data collected within a number of clinical studies indicate that approximately 80% of the treated cutaneous and subcutaneous tumour nodules of different malignancies are in an objective response, from these, approximately 70% in complete response after a single application of electrochemotherapy. Usually only one treatment is needed, however, electrochemotherapy can be repeated several times every few weeks with equal effectiveness each time. The treatment results in an effective eradication of the treated nodules, with a good cosmetic effect without tissue scarring.
PMCID: PMC2762922  PMID: 19229171
17.  Study of radiation induced changes of phosphorus metabolism in mice by 31P NMR spectroscopy 
Radiology and Oncology  2010;44(3):174-179.
The aim of this study was to examine whether 31P NMR can efficiently detect X-ray radiation induced changes of energy metabolism in mice. Exposure to ionizing radiation causes changes in energy supply that are associated with the tissue damage because of oxidative stress and uncoupled oxidative phosphorylation. This has as a consequence decreased phosphocreatine to adenosine triphosphate ratio (Pcr/ATP) as well as increased creatine kinase (CK) and liver enzymes (transaminases AST and ALT) levels in serum.
Materials and methods
In this study, experimental mice that received 7 Gy of X-ray radiation and a control group were studied by 31P NMR spectroscopy and biochemically by measuring CK and liver enzyme levels in plasma. Mice (irradiated and control) were measured at regular time intervals for the next three weeks after the exposure to radiation.
A significant change in the Pcr/ATP ratio, determined from corresponding peaks of 31P NMR spectra, was observed in the 7 Gy group 2 days or more after the irradiation, while no significant change in the Pcr/ATP ratio, was observed in the control group. This result was supported by parallel measurements of CK levels that were highly increased immediately after the irradiation which correlates with the observed decrease of the Pcr/ATP ratio and with it associated drop of muscle energy supply.
The 31P NMR measurements of the Pcr/ATP ratio can in principle serve as an instantaneous and noninvasive index for assessment of the received dose of irradiation.
PMCID: PMC3423691  PMID: 22933912
X-ray irradiation; 31P NMR spectroscopy; creatine kinase; biological effects of radiation; radiation dosimetry
18.  Increased Cellular Uptake of Biocompatible Superparamagnetic Iron Oxide Nanoparticles into Malignant Cells by an External Magnetic Field 
The Journal of Membrane Biology  2010;236(1):167-179.
Superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs) are used as delivery systems for different therapeutics including nucleic acids for magnetofection-mediated gene therapy. The aim of our study was to evaluate physicochemical properties, biocompatibility, cellular uptake and trafficking pathways of the custom-synthesized SPIONs for their potential use in magnetofection. Custom-synthesized SPIONs were tested for size, shape, crystalline composition and magnetic behavior using a transmission electron microscope, X-ray diffractometer and magnetometer. SPIONs were dispersed in different aqueous media to obtain ferrofluids, which were tested for pH and stability using a pH meter and zetameter. Cytotoxicity was determined using the MTS and clonogenic assays. Cellular uptake and trafficking pathways were qualitatively evaluated by transmission electron microscopy and quantitatively by inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry. SPIONs were composed of an iron oxide core with a diameter of 8–9 nm, coated with a 2-nm-thick layer of silica. SPIONs, dispersed in 0.9% NaCl solution, resulted in a stable ferrofluid at physiological pH for several months. SPIONs were not cytotoxic in a broad range of concentrations and were readily internalized into different cells by endocytosis. Exposure to neodymium-iron-boron magnets significantly increased the cellular uptake of SPIONs, predominantly into malignant cells. The prepared SPIONs displayed adequate physicochemical and biomedical properties for potential use in magnetofection. Their cellular uptake was dependent on the cell type, and their accumulation within the cells was dependent on the duration of exposure to an external magnetic field.
PMCID: PMC2914263  PMID: 20602230
Superparamagnetic nanoparticles; Endocytosis; Magnetic field; Malignant cells; Internalization
19.  Radiotherapy in combination with vascular-targeted therapies 
Radiology and Oncology  2010;44(2):67-78.
Given the critical role of tumor vasculature in tumor development, considerable efforts have been spent on developing therapeutic strategies targeting the tumor vascular network. A variety of agents have been developed, with two general approaches being pursued. Antiangiogenic agents (AAs) aim to interfere with the process of angiogenesis, preventing new tumor blood vessel formation. Vascular-disrupting agents (VDAs) target existing tumor vessels causing tumor ischemia and necrosis. Despite their great therapeutic potential, it has become clear that their greatest clinical utility may lie in combination with conventional anticancer therapies. Radiotherapy is a widely used treatment modality for cancer with its distinct therapeutic challenges. Thus, combining the two approaches seems reasonable.
Strong biological rationale exist for combining vascular-targeted therapies with radiation. AAs and VDAs were shown to alter the tumor microenvironment in such a way as to enhance responses to radiation. The results of preclinical and early clinical studies have confirmed the therapeutic potential of this new treatment strategy in the clinical setting. However, concerns about increased normal tissue toxicity, have been raised.
PMCID: PMC3423684  PMID: 22933894
antiangiogenic agents; vascular-disrupting agents; radiotherapy
20.  Irradiation, Cisplatin, and 5-Azacytidine Upregulate Cytomegalovirus Promoter in Tumors and Muscles: Implementation of Non-invasive Fluorescence Imaging 
Molecular Imaging and Biology  2010;13(1):43-52.
The cytomegalovirus (CMV) promoter is one of the most commonly used promoters for expression of transgenes in mammalian cells. The aim of our study was to evaluate the role of methylation and upregulation of the CMV promoter by irradiation and the chemotherapeutic agent cisplatin in vivo using non-invasive fluorescence in vivo imaging.
Murine fibrosarcoma LPB and mammary carcinoma TS/A cells were stably transfected with plasmids encoding CMV and p21 promoter-driven green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene. Solid TS/A tumors were induced by subcutaneous injection of fluorescent tumor cells, while leg muscles were transiently transfected with plasmid encoding GFP under the control of the CMV promoter. Cells, tumors, and legs were treated either by DNA methylation inhibitor 5-azacytidine, irradiation, or cisplatin. GFP expression was determined using a fluorescence microplate reader in vitro and by non-invasive fluorescence imaging in vivo.
Treatment of cells, tumors, and legs with 5-azacytidine (re)activated the CMV promoter. Furthermore, treatment with irradiation or cisplatin resulted in significant upregulation of GFP expression both in vitro and in vivo.
Observed alterations in the activity of the CMV promoter limit the usefulness of this widely used promoter as a constitutive promoter. On the other hand, inducibility of CMV promoters can be beneficially used in gene therapy when combined with standard cancer treatment, such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC3023030  PMID: 20396957
CMV promoter; Fluorescence imaging; Irradiation; Cisplatin; Demethylation; In vivo; Mice; Mammary carcinoma; Fibrosarcoma
21.  Development of human cell biosensor system for genotoxicity detection based on DNA damage-induced gene expression 
Radiology and Oncology  2010;44(1):42-51.
Human exposure to genotoxic agents in the environment and everyday life represents a serious health threat. Fast and reliable assessment of genotoxicity of chemicals is of main importance in the fields of new chemicals and drug development as well as in environmental monitoring. The tumor suppressor gene p21, the major downstream target gene of activated p53 which is responsible for cell cycle arrest following DNA damage, has been shown to be specifically up-regulated by genotoxic carcinogens. The aim of our study was to develop a human cell-based biosensor system for simple and fast detection of genotoxic agents.
Metabolically active HepG2 human hepatoma cells were transfected with plasmid encoding Enhanced Green Fluorescent Protein (EGFP) under the control of the p21 promoter (p21HepG2GFP). DNA damage was induced by genotoxic agents with known mechanisms of action. The increase in fluorescence intensity, due to p21 mediated EGFP expression, was measured with a fluorescence microplate reader. The viability of treated cells was determined by the colorimetric MTS assay.
The directly acting alkylating agent methylmethane sulphonate (MMS) showed significant increase in EGFP production after 48 h at 20 μg/mL. The indirectly acting carcinogen benzo(a)pyren (BaP) and the cross-linking agent cisplatin (CisPt) induced a dose- dependent increase in EGFP fluorescence, which was already significant at concentrations 0.13 μg/mL and 0.41 μg/mL, respectively. Vinblastine (VLB), a spindle poison that does not induce direct DNA damage, induced only a small increase in EGFP fluorescence intensity after 24 h at the lowest concentration (0.1 μg/mL), while exposure to higher concentrations was associated with significantly reduced cell viability.
The results of our study demonstrated that this novel assay based on the stably transformed cell line p21HepG2GFP can be used as a fast and simple biosensor system for detection of genetic damage caused by chemical agents.
PMCID: PMC3423669  PMID: 22933890
HepG2 cells; biosensor system; green fluorescent protein; reporter gene assay; genotoxicity; p21 promoter
22.  Towards treatment planning and treatment of deep-seated solid tumors by electrochemotherapy 
Electrochemotherapy treats tumors by combining specific chemotherapeutic drugs with an intracellular target and electric pulses, which increases drug uptake into the tumor cells. Electrochemotherapy has been successfully used for treatment of easily accessible superficial tumor nodules. In this paper, we present the first case of deep-seated tumor electrochemotherapy based on numerical treatment planning.
The aim of our study was to treat a melanoma metastasis in the thigh of a patient. Treatment planning for electrode positioning and electrical pulse parameters was performed for two different electrode configurations: one with four and another with five long needle electrodes. During the procedure, the four electrode treatment plan was adopted and the patient was treated accordingly by electrochemotherapy with bleomycin. The response to treatment was clinically and radiographically evaluated. Due to a partial response of the treated tumor, the metastasis was surgically removed after 2 months and pathological analysis was performed.
A partial response of the tumor to electrochemotherapy was obtained. Histologically, the metastasis showed partial necrosis due to electrochemotherapy, estimated to represent 40-50% of the tumor. Based on the data obtained, we re-evaluated the electrical treatment parameters in order to correlate the treatment plan with the clinical response. Electrode positions in the numerical model were updated according to the actual positions during treatment. We compared the maximum value of the measured electric current with the current predicted by the model and good agreement was obtained. Finally, tumor coverage with an electric field above the reversible threshold was recalculated and determined to be approximately 94%. Therefore, according to the calculations, a small volume of tumor cells remained viable after electrochemotherapy, and these were sufficient for tumor regrowth.
In this, the first reported clinical case, deep-seated melanoma metastasis in the thigh of the patient was treated by electrochemotherapy, according to a treatment plan obtained by numerical modeling and optimization. Although only a partial response was obtained, the presented work demonstrates that treatment of deep-seated tumor nodules by electrochemotherapy is feasible and sets the ground for numerical treatment planning-based electrochemotherapy.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC2843684  PMID: 20178589
23.  Electric pulses used in electrochemotherapy and electrogene therapy do not significantly change the expression profile of genes involved in the development of cancer in malignant melanoma cells 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:299.
Electroporation is a versatile method for in vitro or in vivo delivery of different molecules into cells. However, no study so far has analysed the effects of electric pulses used in electrochemotherapy (ECT pulses) or electric pulses used in electrogene therapy (EGT pulses) on malignant cells. We studied the effect of ECT and EGT pulses on human malignant melanoma cells in vitro in order to understand and predict the possible effect of electric pulses on gene expression and their possible effect on cell behaviour.
We used microarrays with 2698 different oligonucleotides to obtain the expression profile of genes involved in apoptosis and cancer development in a malignant melanoma cell line (SK-MEL28) exposed to ECT pulses and EGT pulses.
Cells exposed to ECT pulses showed a 68.8% average survival rate, while cells exposed to EGT pulses showed a 31.4% average survival rate. Only seven common genes were found differentially expressed in cells 16 h after exposure to ECT and EGT pulses. We found that ECT and EGT pulses induce an HSP70 stress response mechanism, repress histone protein H4, a major protein involved in chromatin assembly, and down-regulate components involved in protein synthesis.
Our results show that electroporation does not significantly change the expression profile of major tumour suppressor genes or oncogenes of the cell cycle. Moreover, electroporation also does not changes the expression of genes involved in the stability of DNA, supporting current evidence that electroporation is a safe method that does not promote tumorigenesis. However, in spite of being considered an isothermal method, it does to some extent induce stress, which resulted in the expression of the environmental stress response mechanism, HSP70.
PMCID: PMC2745430  PMID: 19709437
24.  The effect of electroporation pulses on functioning of the heart 
Electrochemotherapy is an effective antitumor treatment currently applied to cutaneous and subcutaneous tumors. Electrochemotherapy of tumors located close to the heart could lead to adverse effects, especially if electroporation pulses were delivered within the vulnerable period of the heart or if they coincided with arrhythmias of some types. We examined the influence of electroporation pulses on functioning of the heart of human patients by analyzing the electrocardiogram. We found no pathological morphological changes in the electrocardiogram; however, we demonstrated a transient RR interval decrease after application of electroporation pulses. Although no adverse effects due to electroporation have been reported so far, the probability for complications could increase in treatment of internal tumors, in tumor ablation by irreversible electroporation, and when using pulses of longer durations. We evaluated the performance of our algorithm for synchronization of electroporation pulse delivery with electrocardiogram. The application of this algorithm in clinical electroporation would increase the level of safety for the patient and suitability of electroporation for use in anatomical locations presently not accessible to existing electroporation devices and electrodes.
PMCID: PMC2491703  PMID: 18415132
Electrochemotherapy; Electrocardiogram; QRS detection; Synchronization of electroporation pulse delivery with ECG
25.  Radiosensitising effect of electrochemotherapy with bleomycin in LPB sarcoma cells and tumors in mice 
BMC Cancer  2005;5:115.
Bleomycin is poorly permeant but potent cytotoxic and radiosensitizing drug. The aim of the study was to evaluate whether a physical drug delivery system – electroporation can increase radiosensitising effect of bleomycin in vitro and in vivo.
LPB sarcoma cells and tumors were treated either with bleomycin, electroporation or ionizing radiation, and combination of these treatments. In vitro, response to different treatments was determined by colony forming assay, while in vivo, treatment effectiveness was determined by local tumor control (TCD50). Time dependence of partial oxygen pressure in LPB tumors after application of electric pulses was measured by electron paramagnetic oxyimetry.
Electroporation of cells in vitro increased radiosensitising effect of bleomycin for 1.5 times, in vivo radiation response of tumors was enhanced by 1.9 fold compared to response of tumors that were irradiated only. Neither treatment of tumors with bleomycin nor application of electric pulses only, affected radiation response of tumors. Application of electric pulses to the tumors induced profound but transient reduction of tumor oxygenation. Although tumor oxygenation after electroporation partially restored at the time of irradiation, it was still reduced at the level of radiobiologically relevant hypoxia.
Our study shows that application of electric pulses to cells and tumors increases radiosensitising effect of bleomycin. Furthermore, our results demonstrate that the radiobiologically relevant hypoxia induced by electroporation of tumors did not counteract the pronounced radiosensitising effect of electrochemotherapy with bleomycin.
PMCID: PMC1261257  PMID: 16168056

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