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1.  Ex vivo stimulation of whole blood as a means to determine glucocorticoid sensitivity 
Glucocorticoids are commonly prescribed to treat a number of diseases including the majority of inflammatory diseases. Despite considerable interpersonal variability in response to glucocorticoids, an insensitivity rate of about 30%, and the risk of adverse side effects of glucocorticoid therapy, currently no assay is performed to determine sensitivity.
Patients and methods
Here we propose a whole blood ex vivo stimulation assay to interrogate known glucocorticoid receptor (GR) up- and downregulated genes to indicate glucocorticoid sensitivity. We have chosen to employ real-time PCR in order to provide a relatively fast and inexpensive assay.
We show that the GR-regulated genes, GILZ and FKBP51, are upregulated in whole blood by treatment with dexamethasone and that LPS-induction of cytokines (IL-6 and TNFα) are repressed by dexamethasone in a dose responsive manner. There is considerable interpersonal variability in the maximum induction of these genes but little variation in the EC50 and IC50 concentrations. The regulation of the GR-induced genes differs throughout the day whereas the suppression of LPS-induced cytokines is not as sensitive to time of day.
In all, this assay would provide a method to determine glucocorticoid receptor responsiveness in whole blood.
PMCID: PMC3430009  PMID: 22952414
glucocorticoid responsiveness; gene regulation; nuclear receptor; GILZ; FKBP51; cytokines
2.  Multi-Institutional Phase II Study of Selumetinib in Patients With Metastatic Biliary Cancers 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2011;29(17):2357-2363.
Biliary cancers (BCs) carry a poor prognosis, but targeting the RAS/RAF/mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK)/extracellular signal-related kinase (ERK) pathway is of significance. Selumetinib is an inhibitor of MEK1/2, so this trial was designed to determine the safety and efficacy of selumetinib in BC.
Patients and Methods
This was a multi-institutional phase II study of selumetinib at 100 mg given orally twice per day to patients with advanced BC. The primary end point was response rate. All patients were required to provide tissue before enrolling. The levels of phosphorylated ERK (pERK) and AKT (pAKT) were assessed by immunohistochemistry. Tumors were genotyped for the presence of BRAF- and/or RAS-activating mutations.
Twenty-eight eligible patients with a median age of 55.6 years were enrolled. Thirty-nine percent of patients had received one prior systemic therapy. Three patients (12%) had a confirmed objective response. Another 17 patients (68%) experienced stable disease (SD), 14 of whom (56%) experienced prolonged SD (> 16 weeks). Patients gained an average nonfluid weight of 8.6 pounds. Median progression-free survival was 3.7 months (95% CI, 3.5 to 4.9) and median overall survival was 9.8 months (95% CI, 5.97 to not available). Toxicities were mild, with rash (90%) and xerostomia (54%) being most frequent. Only one patient experienced grade 4 toxicity (fatigue). All patients had tissue available for analysis. No BRAF V600E mutations were found. Two patients with short-lived SD had KRAS mutations. Absence of pERK staining was associated with lack of response.
Selumetinib displays interesting activity and acceptable tolerability in patients with metastatic BC. Our results warrant further evaluation of selumetinib in patients with metastatic BC.
PMCID: PMC3107751  PMID: 21519026
3.  Phase I Active Immunotherapy With Combination of Two Chimeric, Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2, B-Cell Epitopes Fused to a Promiscuous T-Cell Epitope in Patients With Metastatic and/or Recurrent Solid Tumors 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2009;27(31):5270-5277.
To evaluate the maximum-tolerated dose (MTD), safety profile, and immunogenicity of two chimeric, B-cell epitopes derived from the human epidermal growth factor receptor (HER2) extracellular domain in a combination vaccine with a promiscuous T-cell epitope (ie, MVF) and nor-muramyl-dipeptide as adjuvant emulsified in SEPPIC ISA 720.
Patients and Methods
Eligible patients with metastatic and/or recurrent solid tumors received three inoculations on days 1, 22, and 43 at doses of total peptide that ranged from 0.5 to 3.0 mg. Immunogenicity was evaluated by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, flow cytometry, and HER2 signaling assays.
Twenty-four patients received three inoculations at the intended dose levels, which elicited antibodies able to recognize native HER2 receptor and inhibited both the proliferation of HER2-expressing cell lines and phosphorylation of the HER2 protein. The MTD was determined to be the highest dose level of 3.0 mg of the combination vaccine. There was a significant increase from dose level 1 (0.5 mg) to dose level 4 (3.0 mg) in HER2-specific antibodies. Four patients (one each with adrenal, colon, ovarian, and squamous cell carcinoma of unknown primary) were judged to have stable disease; two patients (one each with endometrial and ovarian cancer) had partial responses; and 11 patients had progressive disease. Patients with stable disease received 6-month boosts, and one patient received a 20-month boost.
The combination vaccines were safe and effective in eliciting antibody responses in a subset of patients (62.5%) and were associated with no serious adverse events, autoimmune disease, or cardiotoxicity. There was preliminary evidence of clinical activity in several patients.
PMCID: PMC2773479  PMID: 19752336
4.  A Multi-institutional Phase II study of the efficacy and tolerability of Lapatinib in patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinomas 
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is on the rise worldwide. HCC responds poorly to chemotherapy. Lapatinib is an inhibitor of EGFR and HER2/NEU both implicated in hepatocarcinogenesis. This trial was designed to determine the safety and efficacy of lapatinib in HCC.
A Fleming phase II design with a single stage of 25 patients with a 90% power to exclude a true response rate of < 10% and detect a true response rate of ≥30% was utilized. The dose of lapatinib was 1,500 mg/d administered orally in 28-day cycles. Tumor and blood specimens were analyzed for expression of HER2/NEU/CEP17 and status of downstream signal pathway proteins.
Twenty-six patients with HCC enrolled on this study. 19% had one prior therapy. Most common toxicities were diarrhea (73%), nausea (54%) and rash (42%). No objective responses were observed. Ten (40%) patients had stable disease (SD) as their best response including 6 (23%) with SD lasting > 120 days. Median progression-free-survival was 1.9 months and median overall survival 12.6 months. Patients who developed a rash had a borderline statistically significant longer survival. Tissue and blood specimens were available on >90% of patients. No somatic mutations in EGFR (exons 18–21) were found. In contrast to our previous findings, we did not find evidence of HER2/NEU somatic mutations. PTEN, P-AKT and P70S6K expression did not correlate with survival.
Lapatinib is well-tolerated but appears to benefit only a subgroup of patients for whom predictive molecular or clinical characteristics are not yet fully defined.
PMCID: PMC2774354  PMID: 19737952

Results 1-4 (4)