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1.  Randomised Phase II Trial (NCT00637975) Evaluating Activity and Toxicity of Two Different Escalating Strategies for Pregabalin and Oxycodone Combination Therapy for Neuropathic Pain in Cancer Patients 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e59981.
Neuropathic pain is commonly associated with cancer. Current treatments include combination opioid and adjuvant therapies, but no guidelines are available for dose escalation strategies. This phase II study compared the efficacy and tolerability of two dose escalation strategies for oxycodone and pregabalin combination therapy.
Patients (N = 75) with oncological neuropathic pain, previously untreated with pregabalin, were recruited in 5 Italian institutions between 2007 and 2010. Patients were randomised to two different dose escalation strategies (arm A; N = 38) oxycodone at a fixed dose with increasing pregabalin doses; (arm B; N = 37) pregabalin at a fixed dose with increasing oxycodone doses. Patients were evaluated from daily diaries and follow-ups at 3, 7, 10, and 14 days after beginning treatment with a numerical rating scale (NRS), neuropathic pain scale (SDN), and well-being scale (ESAS). The primary endpoint was a ≥1/3 reduction in pain (NRS); secondary endpoints included the time to analgesia and adverse effects. The study had a 90% probability of detecting the best strategy for a true difference of at least 15%.
More patients in arm A (76%) than arm B (64%) achieved ≥1/3 overall pain reduction even after controlling for baseline factors (gender, baseline pain). Group A reported fewer side effects than group B; constipation 52.8% vs. 66.7%; nausea: 27.8% vs. 44.4%; drowsiness: 44.4% vs. 55.6%; confusion: 16.7% vs. 27.8%; itching: 8.3% vs. 19.4%.
Both strategies effectively controlled neuropathic pain, but according to the adopted selection design arm A is preferable to arm B for pain control.
Trial Registration NCT00637975
PMCID: PMC3618180  PMID: 23577077
2.  ALDH enzymatic activity and CD133 positivity and response to chemotherapy in ovarian cancer patients 
The prognostic/predictive role of both CD133 and Aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) expression in human ovarian cancer remains elusive. This is an observational study that investigated the expression of CD133 and of ALDH enzymatic activity in fresh ovarian cancer samples and their association with different clinic-pathological patient’ characteristics and explored their possible predictive/prognostic role. We analyzed the expression of CD133 and ALDH enzymatic activity in 108 human ovarian cancer samples. We found that among the total patients analyzed, 13% of them was completely negative for ALDH activity and 26% was negative for CD133 staining. Both markers were variably expressed within the samples and when both studied in the same tumor sample, no statistically significant correlation between ALDH enzymatic activity and CD133 expression was found. No statistical significant correlation was found also between the percentage values of positive ALDH and CD133 cells and the number of serial passages patient’s cultures underwent, suggesting that these markers do not confer by themselves a self-renewal growth advantage to the cultures. Lower levels of CD133 were associated with higher tumor grade. No correlation with response to therapy, progression free survival and overall survival was found. Our data suggest that neither ALDH enzymatic activity nor CD133 expression provide additional predictive/prognostic information in ovarian cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC3623840  PMID: 23593543
CD133; ALDH activity; ovarian carcinoma
3.  The effect of changes in intraocular pressure on the risk of primary open-angle glaucoma in patients with ocular hypertension: an application of latent class analysis 
Primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States and worldwide. While lowering intraocular pressure (IOP) has been proven to be effective in delaying or preventing the onset of POAG in many large-scale prospective studies, one of the recent hot topics in glaucoma research is the effect of IOP fluctuation (IOP lability) on the risk of developing POAG in treated and untreated subjects.
In this paper, we analyzed data from the Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study (OHTS) and the European Glaucoma Prevention Study (EGPS) for subjects who had at least 2 IOP measurements after randomization prior to POAG diagnosis. We assessed the interrelationships among the baseline covariates, the changes of post-randomization IOP over time, and the risk of developing POAG, using a latent class analysis (LCA) which allows us to identify distinct patterns (latent classes) of IOP trajectories.
The IOP change in OHTS was best described by 6 latent classes differentiated primarily by the mean IOP levels during follow-up. Subjects with high post-randomization mean IOP level and/or large variability were more likely to develop POAG. Five baseline factors were found to be significantly predictive of the IOP classification in OHTS: treatment assignment, baseline IOP, gender, race, and history of hypertension. In separate analyses of EGPS, LCA identified different patterns of IOP change from those in OHTS, but confirmed that subjects with high mean level and large variability were at high risk to develop POAG.
LCA provides a useful tool to assess the impact of post-randomization IOP level and fluctuation on the risk of developing POAG in patients with ocular hypertension. The incorporation of post-randomization IOP can improve the overall predictive ability of the original model that included only baseline risk factors.
PMCID: PMC3532135  PMID: 23035867
Latent class analysis; Longitudinal data; Time-dependent covariate; Prediction model; Survival data; Primary open-angle glaucoma; Intraocular pressure fluctuation
4.  Meta-Analysis on the Effects of Octreotide on Tumor Mass in Acromegaly 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36411.
The long-acting somatostatin analogue octreotide is used either as an adjuvant or primary therapy to lower growth hormone (GH) levels in patients with acromegaly and may also induce pituitary tumor shrinkage.
We performed a meta-analysis to accurately assess the effect of octreotide on pituitary tumor shrinkage.
Data Sources
A computerized Medline and Embase search was undertaken to identify potentially eligible studies.
Study Eligibility Criteria
Eligibility criteria included treatment with octreotide, availability of numerical metrics on tumor shrinkage and clear definition of a clinically relevant reduction in tumor size. Primary endpoints included the proportion of patients with tumor shrinkage and mean percentage reduction in tumor volume.
Data Extraction and Analysis
The electronic search identified 2202 articles. Of these, 41 studies fulfilling the eligibility criteria were selected for data extraction and analysis. In total, 1685 patients were included, ranging from 6 to 189 patients per trial. For the analysis of the effect of octreotide on pituitary tumor shrinkage a random effect model was used to account for differences in both effect size and sampling error.
Octreotide was shown to induce tumor shrinkage in 53.0% [95% CI: 45.0%–61.0%] of treated patients. In patients treated with the LAR formulation of octreotide, this increased to 66.0%, [95% CI: 57.0%–74.0%). In the nine studies in which tumor shrinkage was quantified, the overall weighted mean percentage reduction in tumor size was 37.4% [95% CI: 22.4%–52.4%], rising to 50.6% [95% CI: 42.7%–58.4%] with octreotide LAR.
Most trials examined were open-label and had no control group.
Octreotide LAR induces clinically relevant tumor shrinkage in more than half of patients with acromegaly.
PMCID: PMC3344864  PMID: 22574156
5.  A Joint Model for Prognostic Effect of Biomarker Variability on Outcomes: long-term intraocular pressure (IOP) fluctuation on the risk of developing primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) 
JP journal of biostatistics  2011;5(2):73-96.
Primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) is among the leading causes of blindness in the United States and worldwide. While numerous prospective clinical trials have convincingly shown that elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) is a leading risk factor for the development of POAG, an increasingly debated issue in recent years is the effect of IOP fluctuation on the risk of developing POAG. In many applications, this question is addressed via a “naïve” two-step approach where some sample-based estimates (e.g., standard deviation) are first obtained as surrogates for the “true” within-subject variability and then included in Cox regression models as covariates. However, estimates from two-step approach are more likely to suffer from the measurement error inherent in sample-based summary statistics. In this paper we propose a joint model to assess the question whether individuals with different levels of IOP variability have different susceptibility to POAG. In our joint model, the trajectory of IOP is described by a linear mixed model that incorporates patient-specific variance, the time to POAG is fit using a semi-parametric or parametric distribution, and the two models are linked via patient-specific random effects. Parameters in the joint model are estimated under Bayesian framework using Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) methods with Gibbs sampling. The method is applied to data from the Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study (OHTS) and the European Glaucoma Prevention Study (EGPS), two large-scale multi-center randomized trials on the prevention of POAG.
PMCID: PMC3237682  PMID: 22180704
Joint model; Longitudinal data; Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC); Patient-specific variance; Survival data
6.  Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Multiprotein Biomarkers in Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e25545.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal progressive motor neuron disease, for which there are still no diagnostic/prognostic test and therapy. Specific molecular biomarkers are urgently needed to facilitate clinical studies and speed up the development of effective treatments.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We used a two-dimensional difference in gel electrophoresis approach to identify in easily accessible clinical samples, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), a panel of protein biomarkers that are closely associated with ALS. Validations and a longitudinal study were performed by immunoassays on a selected number of proteins. The same proteins were also measured in PBMC and spinal cord of a G93A SOD1 transgenic rat model. We identified combinations of protein biomarkers that can distinguish, with high discriminatory power, ALS patients from healthy controls (98%), and from patients with neurological disorders that may resemble ALS (91%), between two levels of disease severity (90%), and a number of translational biomarkers, that link responses between human and animal model. We demonstrated that TDP-43, cyclophilin A and ERp57 associate with disease progression in a longitudinal study. Moreover, the protein profile changes detected in peripheral blood mononuclear cells of ALS patients are suggestive of possible intracellular pathogenic mechanisms such as endoplasmic reticulum stress, nitrative stress, disturbances in redox regulation and RNA processing.
Our results indicate that PBMC multiprotein biomarkers could contribute to determine amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis, differential diagnosis, disease severity and progression, and may help to elucidate pathogenic mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3187793  PMID: 21998667
7.  Defective Mismatch Repair As a Predictive Marker for Lack of Efficacy of Fluorouracil-Based Adjuvant Therapy in Colon Cancer 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2010;28(20):3219-3226.
Prior reports have indicated that patients with colon cancer who demonstrate high-level microsatellite instability (MSI-H) or defective DNA mismatch repair (dMMR) have improved survival and receive no benefit from fluorouracil (FU) -based adjuvant therapy compared with patients who have microsatellite-stable or proficient mismatch repair (pMMR) tumors. We examined MMR status as a predictor of adjuvant therapy benefit in patients with stages II and III colon cancer.
MSI assay or immunohistochemistry for MMR proteins were performed on 457 patients who were previously randomly assigned to FU-based therapy (either FU + levamisole or FU + leucovorin; n = 229) versus no postsurgical treatment (n = 228). Data were subsequently pooled with data from a previous analysis. The primary end point was disease-free survival (DFS).
Overall, 70 (15%) of 457 patients exhibited dMMR. Adjuvant therapy significantly improved DFS (hazard ratio [HR], 0.67; 95% CI, 0.48 to 0.93; P = .02) in patients with pMMR tumors. Patients with dMMR tumors receiving FU had no improvement in DFS (HR, 1.10; 95% CI, 0.42 to 2.91; P = .85) compared with those randomly assigned to surgery alone. In the pooled data set of 1,027 patients (n = 165 with dMMR), these findings were maintained; in patients with stage II disease and with dMMR tumors, treatment was associated with reduced overall survival (HR, 2.95; 95% CI, 1.02 to 8.54; P = .04).
Patient stratification by MMR status may provide a more tailored approach to colon cancer adjuvant therapy. These data support MMR status assessment for patients being considered for FU therapy alone and consideration of MMR status in treatment decision making.
PMCID: PMC2903323  PMID: 20498393
8.  Approaches to interim analysis of cancer randomised clinical trials with time to event endpoints: A survey from the Italian National Monitoring Centre for Clinical Trials 
Trials  2008;9:46.
Although interim analysis approaches in clinical trials are widely known, information on current practice of planned monitoring is still scarce. Reports of studies rarely include details on the strategies for both data monitoring and interim analysis. The aim of this project is to investigate the forms of monitoring used in cancer clinical trials and in particular to gather information on the role of interim analyses in the data monitoring process of a clinical trial. This study focused on the prevalence of different types of interim analyses and data monitoring in cancer clinical trials.
Source of investigation were the protocols of cancer clinical trials included in the Italian registry of clinical trials from 2000 to 2005. Evaluation was restricted to protocols of randomised studies with a time to event endpoint, such as overall survival (OS) or progression free survival (PFS). A template data extraction form was developed and tested in a pilot phase. Selection of relevant protocols and data extraction were performed independently by two evaluators, with differences in the data assessment resolved by consensus with a third reviewer, referring back to the original protocol. Information was obtained on a) general characteristics of the protocol b) disease localization and patient setting; c) study design d) interim analyses; e) DSMC.
The analysis of the collected protocols reveals that 70.7% of the protocols incorporate statistical interim analysis plans, but only 56% have also a DSMC and be considered adequately planned. The most concerning cases are related to lack of any form of monitoring (20.0% of the protocols), and the planning of interim analysis, without DSMC (14.7%).
The results indicate that there is still insufficient attention paid to the implementation of interim analysis.
PMCID: PMC2533282  PMID: 18657271
9.  Sampling variability of computer-aided fractal-corrected measures of liver fibrosis in needle biopsy specimens 
AIM: To assess the sampling variability of computer-aided, fractal-corrected measures of fibrosis in liver biopsies.
METHODS: Samples were derived from six to eight different parts of livers removed from 12 patients with clinically and histologically proven cirrhosis undergoing orthotopic liver transplantation. Sirius red-stained sections with a thickness of 2 μm were digitized using a computer-aided image analysis system that automatically measures the surface of fibrosis, as well as its outline perimeter, fractal surface and outline dimensions, wrinkledness, and Hurst coefficient.
RESULTS: We found a high degree of inter-sample variability in the measurements of the surface [coefficient of variation (CV) = 43% ± 13%] and wrinkledness (CV = 28% ± 9%) of fibrosis, but the inter-sample variability of Hurst’s exponent was low (CV = 14% ± 2%).
CONCLUSION: This study suggests that Hurst’s exponent might be used in clinical practice as the best histological estimate of fibrosis in the whole organ, and evidences the fact that biopsy sections, which are fundamental for the qualitative diagnosis of chronic hepatitis, play a key role in the quantitative estimate of architectural changes in liver tissue.
PMCID: PMC4088049  PMID: 17171796
Cirrhosis; Hepatitis C virus; Inter-sample variability; Extra-cellular matrix; Image analysis
10.  Pain in cancer. An outcome research project to evaluate the epidemiology, the quality and the effects of pain treatment in cancer patients 
Management of pain related to advanced or metastatic cancer, although the availability of several pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions and the existence of well-known guidelines and protocols, is often difficult and inadequate. Evidence of the relative effectiveness of current options for treating cancer pain from comparative randomized studies is scanty.
In the context of a wider project, a multicenter, open label, prospective Outcome Research study will be launched in Italy in 2006 to investigate the epidemiology of cancer pain and of its treatments, the quality of analgesic-drug therapy and the effectiveness of alternative analgesic strategies in a large, prospective, unselected cohort of cancer patients using the state-of-the art of patient-reported-outcomes. About 100 Italian centers will recruit 2500 patients with advanced/progressive/metastatic cancer with pain (related to the cancer disease) requiring analgesic treatments. Each center is expected to recruit 25 consecutive and eligible patients during the study inception period. Approximately two months will be allowed for subject recruitment and enrollment. Subject evaluation and follow-up will be for 3 months. The effect on outcomes of various therapeutic analgesic options administered by physicians, given the observational approach where patients are not assigned at random to different treatments, will be compared using the propensity score approach, allowing the adjustment for treatment selection bias. Later, after the launch of the observational study and on the basis of results, in specific subsamples of patients and in select centers of the network, a Randomized Controlled Trial will be carried out to formally compare the efficacy of alternative analgesic strategies, with particular emphasis on oral morphine (as comparator) and buprenorphine patch (as experimental arm). Results from the outcome (cohort) and experimental (Randomized Controlled Trial) studies will ensure both the external and internal validity.
PMCID: PMC1402259  PMID: 16457716
11.  Effectiveness of antibiotic prophylaxis in critically ill adult patients: systematic review of randomised controlled trials 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1998;316(7140):1275-1285.
Objective: To determine whether antibiotic prophylaxis reduces respiratory tract infections and overall mortality in unselected critically ill adult patients.
Design: Meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials from 1984 and 1996 that compared different forms of antibiotic prophylaxis used to reduce respiratory tract infections and mortality with aggregate data and, in a subset of trials, data from individual patients.
Subjects: Unselected critically ill adult patients; 5727 patients for aggregate data meta-analysis, 4343 for confirmatory meta-analysis with data from individual patients.
Main outcome measures: Respiratory tract infections and total mortality.
Results: Two categories of eligible trials were defined: topical plus systemic antibiotics versus no treatment and topical preparation with or without a systemic antibiotic versus a systemic agent or placebo. Estimates from aggregate data meta-analysis of 16 trials (3361 patients) that tested combined treatment indicated a strong significant reduction in infection (odds ratio 0.35; 95% confidence interval 0.29 to 0.41) and total mortality (0.80; 0.69 to 0.93). With this treatment five and 23 patients would need to be treated to prevent one infection and one death, respectively. Similar analysis of 17 trials (2366 patients) that tested only topical antibiotics indicated a clear reduction in infection (0.56; 0.46 to 0.68) without a significant effect on total mortality (1.01; 0.84 to 1.22). Analysis of data from individual patients yielded similar results. No significant differences in treatment effect by major subgroups of patients emerged from the analyses.
Conclusions: This meta-analysis of 15 years of clinical research suggests that antibiotic prophylaxis with a combination of topical and systemic drugs can reduce respiratory tract infections and overall mortality in critically ill patients. This effect is significant and worth while, and it should be considered when practice guidelines are defined.
Key messages Over 40% of patients who need ventilation in intensive care develop respiratory tract infections and about 30% may die in the units If the most effective antibiotic prophylaxis (that is, a protocol combining topical and systemic antibiotics) is used the incidence of respiratory tract infections can be reduced by 65% and total mortality by 20% A regimen of topical antibiotics alone reduces respiratory tract infections but does not influence survival The concern that widespread antibiotic use may lead to resistance cannot be confirmed or ruled out by this review. Trials with different design are probably warranted to handle this question This important effect of antibiotic prophylaxis with a combination of topical and systemic antibiotics on survival should be considered by intensivists when treatment policies are designed
PMCID: PMC28528  PMID: 9554897

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