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1.  Genetic prevention of lymphoma in p53 knockout mice allows the early development of p53-related sarcomas 
Oncotarget  2014;5(23):11924-11938.
Homozygous knockout of p53 in mice leads to early mortality from lymphoma, with almost complete penetrance, thus hampering studies of other tumor histotypes related to p53 alterations. To avoid lymphoma development, we crossed p53 knockout mice (BALB-p53 mice) with alymphocytic BALB/c Rag2−/−;Il2rg−/− (RGKO) mice. We compared the tumor spectrum of homozygous (BALB-p53−/−) and heterozygous (BALB-p53+/−) mice with alymphocytic mice (RGKO-p53−/− and RGKO-p53+/−). Lymphoma incidence in BALB-p53−/− mice exceeded 80%, whereas in RGKO-p53−/− it was strongly reduced. The prevalent tumor of RGKO-p53−/− mice was hemangiosarcoma (incidence over 65% in both sexes, mean latency 18 weeks), other tumors included soft tissue sarcomas (incidence ~10%), lung and mammary carcinomas. Tumor spectrum changes occurred also in p53 heterozygotes, in which lymphomas are relatively rare (~20%). RGKO-p53+/− had an increased incidence of hemangiosarcomas, reaching ~30%, and females had an increased incidence of osteosarcomas, reaching ~20%. Osteosarcomas shared with the corresponding human tumors the involvement of limbs and a high metastatic ability, mainly to the lungs. Specific alterations in the expression of p53-related genes (p16Ink4a, p19Arf, p15Ink4b, p21Cip1) were observed. Genetic prevention of lymphoma in p53 knockout mice led to new models of sarcoma development, available for studies on hemangiosarcoma and osteosarcoma onset and metastatization.
PMCID: PMC4322986  PMID: 25426555
p53-KO mice; Rag2KO/Il2rgKO mice; lymphoma; hemangiosarcoma; osteosarcoma
2.  Vaccines against human HER2 prevent mammary carcinoma in mice transgenic for human HER2 
The availability of mice transgenic for the human HER2 gene (huHER2) and prone to the development of HER2-driven mammary carcinogenesis (referred to as FVB-huHER2 mice) prompted us to study active immunopreventive strategies targeting the human HER2 molecule in a tolerant host.
FVB-huHER2 mice were vaccinated with either IL-12-adjuvanted human HER2-positive cancer cells or DNA vaccine carrying chimeric human-rat HER2 sequences. Onset and number of mammary tumors were recorded to evaluate vaccine potency. Mice sera were collected and passively transferred to xenograft-bearing mice to assess their antitumor efficacy.
Both cell and DNA vaccines significantly delayed tumor onset, leading to about 65% tumor-free mice at 70 weeks, whereas mock-vaccinated FVB-huHER2 controls developed mammary tumors at a median age of 45 weeks. In the DNA vaccinated group, 65% of mice were still tumor-free at about 90 weeks of age. The number of mammary tumors per mouse was also significantly reduced in vaccinated mice. Vaccines broke the immunological tolerance to the huHER2 transgene, inducing both humoral and cytokine responses. The DNA vaccine mainly induced a high and sustained level of anti-huHER2 antibodies, the cell vaccine also elicited interferon (IFN)-γ production. Sera of DNA-vaccinated mice transferred to xenograft-carrying mice significantly inhibited the growth of human HER2-positive cancer cells.
Anti-huHER2 antibodies elicited in the tolerant host exert antitumor activity.
PMCID: PMC3979148  PMID: 24451168
3.  Preclinical Therapy of Disseminated HER-2+ Ovarian and Breast Carcinomas with a HER-2-Retargeted Oncolytic Herpesvirus 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(1):e1003155.
Oncolytic viruses aim to specifically kill tumor cells. A major challenge is the effective targeting of disseminated tumors in vivo. We retargeted herpes simplex virus (HSV) tropism to HER-2 oncoprotein p185, overexpressed in ovary and breast cancers. The HER-2-retargeted R-LM249 exclusively infects and kills tumor cells expressing high levels of human HER-2. Here, we assessed the efficacy of systemically i.p. delivered R-LM249 against disseminated tumors in mouse models that recapitulate tumor spread to the peritoneum in women. The human ovarian carcinoma SK-OV-3 cells implanted intraperitoneally (i.p.) in immunodeficient Rag2−/−;Il2rg−/− mice gave rise to a progressive peritoneal carcinomatosis which mimics the fatal condition in advanced human patients. I.p. administration of R-LM249 strongly inhibited carcinomatosis, resulting in 60% of mice free from peritoneal diffusion, and 95% reduction in the total weight of neoplastic nodules. Intraperitoneal metastases are a common outcome in breast cancer: i.p. administration of R-LM249 strongly inhibited the growth of ovarian metastases of HER-2+ MDA-MB-453 breast cells. Brain metastases were also reduced. Cumulatively, upon i.p. administration the HER-2-redirected oncolytic HSV effectively reduced the growth of ovarian and breast carcinoma disseminated to the peritoneal cavity.
Author Summary
In the genome of human herpes simplex virus (HSV) we have replaced part of the sequences encoding the receptor-binding glycoprotein with antibody fragments directed against the oncoprotein HER-2, overexpressed in human breast and ovarian cancers. The retargeted HSV only infects and kills human cancer cells expressing high levels of HER-2. Earlier experiments showed that the retargeted HSV injected inside localized tumors inhibits human tumor growth in immunodeficient mice. As tumor dissemination is the major cause of cancer mortality, we have now used the HER-2-retargeted HSV to treat disseminated HER-2+ ovarian and breast cancer in immunodeficient mice. Intraperitoneal treatments significantly inhibited the peritoneal spread (carcinomatosis and ascites formation) of ovarian cancer cells and the metastatic growth of breast cancer cells in the ovaries. Brain metastases were also inhibited. Our results showed that a HER-2-redirected oncolytic HSV is an effective therapeutic agent against metastatic HER-2+ cancers and, more generally, provide the first demonstration of the efficacy of a systemically-administered, retargeted oncolytic HSV.
PMCID: PMC3561254  PMID: 23382683
4.  Preclinical HER-2 Vaccines: From Rodent to Human HER-2 
Frontiers in Oncology  2013;3:151.
Effective prevention of human cancer with vaccines against viruses, such as HBV and HPV, raises the question whether also non-virus related tumors could be prevented with immunological means. Studies in HER-2-transgenic mice showed that powerful anti-HER-2 vaccines, could almost completely prevent the onset of mammary carcinoma. Protective immune responses were orchestrated by T cells and their cytokines, and effected by antibodies against HER-2 gene product p185. Analogous findings were reported in a variety of other cancer immunoprevention systems, thus leading to the definition of oncoantigens, optimal target antigens that are causally involved in carcinogenesis and cancer progression. Prophylactic HER-2 vaccines were also effective in preventing metastasis outgrowth, indicating that concepts and approaches developed for cancer immunoprevention could prove fruitful in cancer immunotherapy as well. The availability of cancer-prone mice carrying a human HER-2 transgene is now fostering the design of novel vaccines against human p185. A further bridge toward human cancer was recently provided by novel immunodeficient models, like Rag2−/−;Il2rg−/− mice, which are permissive for metastatic spread of human HER-2+ cancer cells and can be engrafted with a functional human immune system, allowing for the first time the study of vaccines against oncoantigens to elicit human immune responses against human cancer cells in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3677144  PMID: 23772419
HER-2; tumor immunology; oncoantigens; mouse models; metastasis; immunodeficient mice
5.  Multiorgan Metastasis of Human HER-2+ Breast Cancer in Rag2−/−;Il2rg−/− Mice and Treatment with PI3K Inhibitor 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39626.
In vivo studies of the metastatic process are severely hampered by the fact that most human tumor cell lines derived from highly metastatic tumors fail to consistently metastasize in immunodeficient mice like nude mice. We describe a model system based on a highly immunodeficient double knockout mouse, Rag2−/−;Il2rg−/−, which lacks T, B and NK cell activity. In this model human metastatic HER-2+ breast cancer cells displayed their full multiorgan metastatic potential, without the need for selections or additional manipulations of the system. Human HER-2+ breast cancer cell lines MDA-MB-453 and BT-474 injected into Rag2−/−;Il2rg−/− mice faithfully reproduced human cancer dissemination, with multiple metastatic sites that included lungs, bones, brain, liver, ovaries, and others. Multiorgan metastatic spread was obtained both from local tumors, growing orthotopically or subcutaneously, and from cells injected intravenously. The problem of brain recurrencies is acutely felt in HER-2+ breast cancer, because monoclonal antibodies against HER-2 penetrate poorly the blood-brain barrier. We studied whether a novel oral small molecule inhibitor of downstream PI3K, selected for its penetration of the blood-brain barrier, could affect multiorgan metastatic spread in Rag2−/−; Il2rg−/− mice. NVP-BKM120 effectively controlled metastatic growth in multiple organs, and resulted in a significant proportion of mice free from brain and bone metastases. Human HER-2+ human breast cancer cells in Rag2−/−;Il2rg−/− mice faithfully reproduced the multiorgan metastatic pattern observed in patients, thus allowing the investigation of metastatic mechanisms and the preclinical study of novel antimetastatic agents.
PMCID: PMC3380859  PMID: 22737248
6.  2011: the immune hallmarks of cancer 
Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy  2011;60(3):319-326.
Ten years after the publication of the position paper “The hallmarks of cancer” (Hanahan and Weinberg Cell 100:57–70, 2000), it has become increasingly clear that mutated cells on their way to giving rise to a tumor have also to learn how to thrive in a chronically inflamed microenvironment, evade immune recognition, and suppress immune reactivity. Genetic and molecular definition of these three immune hallmarks of cancer offers the opportunity to learn how to deploy specific countermeasures to reverse the situation in favor of the immune system and, eventually, the patient. This new information could be channeled to address what seem to be the three major hallmarks for the immune control of cancer progression: effective procedures to activate immune reactivity; characterization of not-disposable oncoantigens; and counteraction of immune suppression.
PMCID: PMC3042096  PMID: 21267721
Cancer; Inflammation; Immune surveillance; Immune suppression; Oncoantigens; Tumor vaccine; Antitumor antibodies
7.  Concordant morphologic and gene expression data show that a vaccine halts HER-2/neu preneoplastic lesions 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2004;113(5):709-717.
While much experimental data shows that vaccination efficiently inhibits a subsequent challenge by a transplantable tumor, its ability to inhibit the progress of autochthonous preneoplastic lesions is virtually unknown. In this article, we show that a combined DNA and cell vaccine persistently inhibits such lesions in a murine HER-2/neu mammary carcinogenesis model. At 10 weeks of age, all of the ten mammary gland samples from HER-2/neu–transgenic mice displayed foci of hyperplasia that progressed to invasive tumors. Vaccination with plasmids coding for the transmembrane and extracellular domain of rat p185neu followed by a boost with rp185neu+ allogeneic cells secreting IFN-γ kept 48% of mice tumor free. At 22 weeks, their mammary glands were indistinguishable from those of 10-week-old untreated mice. Furthermore, the transcription patterns of the two sets of glands coincided. Of the 12,000 genes analyzed, 17 were differentially expressed and related to the antibody response. The use of B cell knockout mice as well as the concordance of morphologic and gene expression data demonstrated that the Ab response is the main mechanism facilitating tumor growth arrest. This finding suggests that a new way can be found to secure the immunologic control of the progression of HER-2/neu preneoplastic lesions.
PMCID: PMC351320  PMID: 14991069
8.  Combined Allogeneic Tumor Cell Vaccination and Systemic Interleukin 12 Prevents Mammary Carcinogenesis in HER-2/neu Transgenic Mice 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2001;194(9):1195-1206.
Transgenic Balb/c mice expressing the transforming rat HER-2/neu oncogene develop early and multifocal mammary carcinomas. Within the first 5 months of life the tissue-specific expression of HER-2/neu causes a progression in all their 10 mammary glands from atypical hyperplasia to invasive carcinoma. It was previously observed that chronic administration of interleukin (IL)-12 increased tumor latency, but every mouse eventually succumbed to multiple carcinomas. A significant improvement in tumor prevention was sought by administering allogeneic mammary carcinoma cells expressing HER-2/neu combined with systemic IL-12. This treatment reduced tumor incidence by 90% and more than doubled mouse lifetime. For the maximum prevention p185neu antigen must be expressed by allogeneic cells. IL-12 treatment strongly increased the cell vaccine efficacy. The mammary glands of mice receiving the combined treatment displayed a markedly reduced epithelial cell proliferation, angiogenesis, and HER-2/neu expression, while the few hyperplastic foci were heavily infiltrated by granulocytes, macrophages, and CD8+ lymphocytes. Specific anti–HER-2/neu antibodies were produced and a nonpolarized activation of CD4+ and CD8+ cells secreting IL-4 and interferon (IFN)-γ were evident. A central role for IFN-γ in the preventive effect was proven by the lack of efficacy of vaccination in IFN-γ gene knockout HER-2/neu transgenic Balb/c mice. A possible requirement for IFN-γ is related to its effect on antibody production, in particular on IgG2a and IgG2b subclasses, that were not induced in IFN-γ knockout HER-2/neu mice. In conclusion, our data show that an allogeneic HER-2/neu–expressing cell vaccine combined with IL-12 systemic treatment can prevent the onset of genetically determined tumors.
PMCID: PMC2195980  PMID: 11696586
IL-12; allogeneic vaccine; HER-2/neu; mammary carcinoma; immunoprevention
9.  Dral Is a P53-Responsive Gene Whose Four and a Half Lim Domain Protein Product Induces Apoptosis 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2000;151(3):495-506.
DRAL is a four and a half LIM domain protein identified because of its differential expression between normal human myoblasts and the malignant counterparts, rhabdomyosarcoma cells. In the current study, we demonstrate that transcription of the DRAL gene can be stimulated by p53, since transient expression of functional p53 in rhabdomyosarcoma cells as well as stimulation of endogenous p53 by ionizing radiation in wild-type cells enhances DRAL mRNA levels. In support of these observations, five potential p53 target sites could be identified in the promoter region of the human DRAL gene. To obtain insight into the possible functions of DRAL, ectopic expression experiments were performed. Interestingly, DRAL expression efficiently triggered apoptosis in three cell lines of different origin to the extent that no cells could be generated that stably overexpressed this protein. However, transient transfection experiments as well as immunofluorescence staining of the endogenous protein allowed for the localization of DRAL in different cellular compartments, namely cytoplasm, nucleus, focal contacts, as well as Z-discs and to a lesser extent the M-bands in cardiac myofibrils. These data suggest that downregulation of DRAL might be involved in tumor development. Furthermore, DRAL expression might be important for heart function.
PMCID: PMC2185594  PMID: 11062252
LIM domain protein; transcriptional regulation; p53; apoptosis; subcellular localization
10.  Interleukin 12–mediated Prevention of Spontaneous Mammary Adenocarcinomas in Two Lines of Her-2/neu Transgenic Mice  
The ability of interleukin (IL)-12 to prevent tumors when administered to individuals with a genetic risk of cancer was studied in two lines of transgenic mice expressing rat HER-2/neu oncogene in the mammary gland. Female BALB/c (H-2d) mice carrying the activated HER-2/ neu oncogene show no morphological abnormalities of the mammary gland until 3 wk of age. They then progress through atypical hyperplasia to in situ lobular carcinoma and at 33 wk of age all 10 mammary glands display invasive carcinomas. Adult FVB mice (H-2q) carrying the HER-2/neu protooncogene develop mammary carcinomas with a longer latency (38-49 wk) and a lower multiplicity (mean of 2.6 tumors/mice). Treatment with IL-12 (5 daily intraperitoneal injections, 1 wk on, 3 wk off; the first course with 50 ng IL-12/day, the second with 100 ng IL-12/day) begun at 2 wk of age in BALB/c mice and at 21 wk of age in FVB mice markedly delayed tumor onset and reduced tumor multiplicity. Analogous results were obtained in immunocompetent and permanently CD8+ T lymphocyte–depleted mice. In both transgenic lines, tumor inhibition was associated with mammary infiltration of reactive cells, production of cytokines and inducible nitric oxide synthase, and reduction in microvessel number, in combination with a high degree of hemorrhagic necrosis.
PMCID: PMC2212479  PMID: 9687535
interleukin 12; adenocarcinomas; tumor prevention; angiogenesis; Her-2/neu

Results 1-10 (10)