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1.  NK Cell Receptor NKp46 Regulates Graft-versus-Host Disease 
Cell reports  2014;7(6):1809-1814.
Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is often the only curative treatment for a wide variety of hematologic malignancies. Donor selection in these diseases is crucial, given that transplanted cells can mediate not only the desired graft-versus-leukemia effect but also graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). Here, we demonstrate that in the absence of NKp46, a major killer receptor expressed by human and mouse natural killer (NK) cells, GVHD is greatly exacerbated, resulting in rapid mortality of the transplanted animals because of infection with commensal bacteria. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the exacerbated GVHD is the result of an altered ability of immune cells to respond to stimulation by immature dendritic cells. Because high and low expression of NKp46 on NK cells is observed in different individuals, our data indicate that choosing NKp46-high donors for the treatment of different hematologic malignancies might lead to better tumor eradication while minimizing GVHD.
PMCID: PMC4074424  PMID: 24882008
2.  P-glycoprotein-dependent resistance of cancer cells toward the extrinsic TRAIL apoptosis signaling pathway 
Biochemical pharmacology  2013;86(5):584-596.
The TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL or Apo2L) preferentially cause apoptosis of malignant cells in vitro and in vivo without severe toxicity. Therefore, TRAIL or agonist antibodies to the TRAIL DR4 and DR5 receptors are used in cancer therapy. However, many malignant cells are intrinsically resistant or acquire resistance to TRAIL. It has been previously proposed that the multidrug transporter P-glycoprotein (Pgp) might play a role in resistance of cells to intrinsic apoptotic pathways by interfering with components of ceramide metabolism or by modulating the electrochemical gradient across the plasma membrane. In this study we investigated whether Pgp also confers resistance toward extrinsic death ligands of the TNF family. To this end we focused our study on HeLa cells carrying a tetracycline-repressible plasmid system which shuts down Pgp expression in the presence of tetracycline. Our findings demonstrate that expression of Pgp is a significant factor conferring resistance to TRAIL administration, but not to other death ligands such as TNF-α and Fas ligand. Moreover, blocking Pgp transport activity sensitizes the malignant cells toward TRAIL. Therefore, Pgp transport function is required to confer resistance to TRAIL. Although the resistance to TRAIL-induced apoptosis is Pgp specific, TRAIL itself is not a direct substrate of Pgp. Pgp expression has no effect on the level of the TRAIL receptors DR4 and DR5. These findings might have clinical implications since the combination of TRAIL therapy with administration of Pgp modulators might sensitize TRAIL resistant tumors.
PMCID: PMC4000015  PMID: 23774624
Apoptosis; P-glycoprotein; TRAIL; Resistance; Modulators
3.  SH2B3 (LNK) mutations from Myeloproliferative Neoplasms patients have mild loss of function against wild type JAK2 and JAK2 V617F 
British journal of haematology  2013;161(6):811-820.
Somatic point mutations in the PH domain of SH2B3 (LNK), an adaptor protein that is highly expressed in haematopoietic cells, were recently described in patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms. We studied the effect of these mutations on the JAK2 signalling pathway in cells expressing either wild type JAK2 or the JAK2 V617F mutation. Compared to wild type SH2B3, PH domain mutants have mild loss of function, with no evidence for a dominant-negative effect. Mutants retain binding capacity for JAK2, an established SH2B3 target, as well as for the adaptor proteins 14-3-3 and CBL. Our data suggest that the loss of SH2B3 inhibitory function conferred by the PH domain mutations is mild and may collaborate with JAK2 V617F and CBL mutations in order to promote either the development or the progression of myeloproliferative neoplasms.
PMCID: PMC3672250  PMID: 23590807
MPN; JAK2 mutation; SH2B3 (LNK) mutation; 14-3-3; CBL
4.  Biosimilar G-CSF Based Mobilization of Peripheral Blood Hematopoietic Stem Cells for Autologous and Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplantation 
Theranostics  2014;4(3):280-289.
The use of granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) biosimilars for peripheral blood hematopoietic stem cell (PBSC) mobilization has stimulated an ongoing debate regarding their efficacy and safety. However, the use of biosimilar G-CSF was approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for all the registered indications of the originator G-CSF (Neupogen®) including mobilization of stem cells. Here, we performed a comprehensive review of published reports on the use of biosimilar G-CSF covering patients with hematological malignancies as well as healthy donors that underwent stem cell mobilization at multiple centers using site-specific non-randomized regimens with a biosimilar G-CSF in the autologous and allogeneic setting.
A total of 904 patients mostly with hematological malignancies as well as healthy donors underwent successful autologous or allogeneic stem cell mobilization, respectively, using a biosimilar G-CSF (520 with Ratiograstim®/Tevagrastim, 384 with Zarzio®). The indication for stem cell mobilization in hematology patients included 326 patients with multiple myeloma, 273 with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL), 79 with Hodgkin's lymphoma (HL), and other disease. 156 sibling or volunteer unrelated donors were mobilized using biosimilar G-CSF. Mobilization resulted in good mobilization of CD34+ stem cells with side effects similar to originator G-CSF. Post transplantation engraftment did not significantly differ from results previously documented with the originator G-CSF. The side effects experienced by the patients or donors mobilized by biosimilar G-CSF were minimal and were comparable to those of originator G-CSF.
In summary, the efficacy of biosimilar G-CSFs in terms of PBSC yield as well as their toxicity profile are equivalent to historical data with the reference G-CSF.
PMCID: PMC3915091  PMID: 24505236
Biosimilar G-CSF; hematopoietic stem cells; mobilization; autologous & allogeneic transplantation; healthy donors
5.  Effect of HLA-Matching Recipients to Donor Noninherited Maternal Antigens on Outcomes after Mismatched Umbilical Cord Blood Transplantation for Hematologic Malignancy 
Transplantation-related mortality (TRM) is high after HLA-mismatched umbilical cord blood (UCB) transplantation (UCBT). In utero, exposure to noninherited maternal antigen (NIMA) is recognized by the fetus, which induces Tregulator cells to that haplotype. It is plausible that UCBTs in which recipients are matched to donor NIMAs may alleviate some of the excess mortality associated with this treatment. To explore this concept, we used marginal matched-pair Cox regression analysis to compare outcomes in 48 NIMA-matched UCBTs (ie, the NIMA of the donor UCB unit matched to the patient) and in 116 non–NIMA-matched UCBTs. All patients had a hematologic malignancy and received a single UCB unit. Cases and controls were matched on age, disease, disease status, transplantation-conditioning regimen, HLA match, and infused cell dose. TRM was lower after NIMA-matched UCBTs compared with NIMA-mismatched UCBTs (relative risk, 0.48; P=.05; 18% versus 32% at 5 years posttransplantation). Consequently, overall survival was higher after NIMA-matched UCBT. The 5-year probability of overall survival was 55% after NIMA-matched UCBTs versus 38% after NIMA-mismatched UCBTs (P=.04). When faced with the choice of multiple HLA-mismatched UCB units containing adequate cell doses, selecting an NIMA-matched UCB unit may improve survival after mismatched UCBT.
PMCID: PMC3826155  PMID: 22814031
Permissive match; Regulatory T cells; Fetal immune response
6.  Treatment of severe steroid resistant acute GVHD with mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC) 
Background: Several studies revealed that MSC from human bone marrow can downregulate graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) after allogeneic HSCT. Methods: Herein we present 50 patients with acute GVHD who got 74 (1-4) MSC infusions for 54 separate episodes of aGVHD. Results: aGVHD was defined as steroid resistant grade IV aGVHD in 42 cases. The major presentation was gastrointestinal GVHD; two (n=18) or more (n=21) systems were involved in the majority of cases. The 1st infusion with MSC was given on day +27 (range, 1 to 136); d+45 (range, +11 to +150) post diagnosis of aGVHD and HSCT, respectively. In 2/3 of the cases treatment was performed with frozen stocked MSCs; in 62 cases early passages (1-3) were used. The median number of infused cells was 1.14±0.47 million per kg in the first injection and up to 4.27 (1.70±1.10) millions in total. The two patients with aggressive liver GVHD received MSCs injections intra hepatic arteries without changes of blood flow or evidence cytolysis, but also without a visible effect. Disease free survival at 3.6 years was 56%. We observed better overall survival in patients with GVHD grade < 4, in responders to the 1st treatment with MSC, and in pediatric group. The multivariate analysis demonstrated independent influence on survival of initial response and younger age. There were no immediate or late toxicity or side effects. Conclusion: Injection of MSCs seems to be a promising and safe treatment of GVHD. The encouraging results obviously should be confirmed in a randomized prospective study.
PMCID: PMC3755522  PMID: 23997985
Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC); mesenchymal stem cells; hematopoietic stem cell transplantation; graft versus host disease; steroid resistance
8.  Regulatory T Cells in Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplantation 
Growing evidence suggests that cellular adoptive immunotherapy is becoming an attractive though challenging approach in regulating tumor immunity and alloresponses in clinical transplantation. Naturally arising CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Treg) have emerged as a key component in this regard. Over the last decade, a large body of evidence from preclinical models has demonstrated their crucial role in auto- and tumor immunity and has opened the door to their “first-in-man” clinical application. Initial studies in clinical allogeneic stem cell transplantation are very encouraging and may pave the way for other applications. Further improvements in Treg ex vivo or in vivo expansion technologies will simplify their global clinical application. In this review, we discuss the current knowledge of Treg biology and their potential for cell-based immunotherapy in allogeneic stem cell transplantation.
PMCID: PMC3662184  PMID: 23737813
9.  Older patients with normal karyotype acute myeloid leukemia have a higher rate of genomic changes compared to young patients as determined by SNP array analysis 
Leukemia Research  2011;36(4):467-473.
Older patients with AML have a worse outcome compared to young patients. To study for potential contributors to their poor prognosis, we compared two NK-AML cohorts, young (< 60 years old) and old (> 60 years old), via high density SNP array analysis. Older patients had more genomic changes (1.83±0.23 vs. 1.16±0.2, p=0.037) and a trend for a higher number of copy number neutral loss of heterozygosity (0.5±0.2 vs. 0.24±0.08, p=0.088) compared to young patients. We speculate that complex genomic changes in NK-AML may be a sign of an increase in genomic instability and an indicator of a worse prognosis.
PMCID: PMC3288295  PMID: 22071139
AML; Normal karyotype; SNP array; Old age
10.  Development of Allogeneic NK Cell Adoptive Transfer Therapy in Metastatic Melanoma Patients: In Vitro Preclinical Optimization Studies 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e57922.
Natural killer (NK) cells have long been considered as potential agents for adoptive cell therapy for solid cancer patients. Until today most studies utilized autologous NK cells and yielded disappointing results. Here we analyze various modular strategies to employ allogeneic NK cells for adoptive cell transfer, including donor-recipient HLA-C mismatching, selective activation and induction of melanoma-recognizing lysis receptors, and co-administration of antibodies to elicit antibody-dependent cell cytotoxicity (ADCC). We show that NK cell activation and induction of the relevant lysis receptors, as well as co-administration of antibodies yield substantial anti-cancer effects, which are functionally superior to HLA-C mismatching. Combination of the various strategies yielded improved effects. In addition, we developed various clinically-compatible ex vivo expansion protocols that were optimized according to fold expansion, purity and expression of lysis receptors. The main advantages of employing allogeneic NK cells are accessibility, the ability to use a single donor for many patients, combination with various strategies associated with the mechanism of action, e.g. antibodies and specific activation, as well as donor selection according to HLA or CD16 genotypes. This study rationalizes a clinical trial that combines adoptive transfer of highly potent allogeneic NK cells and antibody therapy.
PMCID: PMC3587427  PMID: 23483943
11.  Immunotherapy for Multiple Myeloma 
PMCID: PMC3546469  PMID: 23346187
12.  RNA Inhibition Highlights Cyclin D1 as a Potential Therapeutic Target for Mantle Cell Lymphoma 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43343.
Mantle cell lymphoma is characterized by a genetic translocation results in aberrant overexpression of the CCND1 gene, which encodes cyclin D1. This protein functions as a regulator of the cell cycle progression, hence is considered to play an important role in the pathogenesis of the disease. In this study, we used RNA interference strategies to examine whether cyclin D1 might serve as a therapeutic target for mantle cell lymphoma. Knocking down cyclin D1 resulted in significant growth retardation, cell cycle arrest, and most importantly, induction of apoptosis. These results mark cyclin D1 as a target for mantle cell lymphoma and emphasize the therapeutic potential hidden in its silencing.
PMCID: PMC3419170  PMID: 22905260
13.  Involvement of Host Stroma Cells and Tissue Fibrosis in Pancreatic Tumor Development in Transgenic Mice 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41833.
Stroma cells and extracellular matrix (ECM) components provide the pivotal microenvironment for tumor development. The study aimed to evaluate the importance of the pancreatic stroma for tumor development.
Pancreatic tumor cells were implanted subcutaneously into green fluorescent protein transgenic mice, and stroma cells invading the tumors were identified through immunohistochemistry. Inhibition of tumor invasion by stroma cells was achieved with halofuginone, an inhibitor of TGFβ/Smad3 signaling, alone or in combination with chemotherapy. The origin of tumor ECM was evaluated with species-specific collagen I antibodies and in situ hybridization of collagen α1(I) gene. Pancreatic fibrosis was induced by cerulean injection and tumors by spleen injection of pancreatic tumor cells.
Inhibition of stroma cell infiltration and reduction of tumor ECM levels by halofuginone inhibited development of tumors derived from mouse and human pancreatic cancer cells. Halofuginone reduced the number only of stroma myofibroblasts expressing both contractile and collagen biosynthesis markers. Both stroma myofibroblasts and tumor cells generated ECM that contributes to tumor growth. Combination of treatments that inhibit stroma cell infiltration, cause apoptosis of myofibroblasts and inhibit Smad3 phosphorylation, with chemotherapy that increases tumor-cell apoptosis without affecting Smad3 phosphorylation was more efficacious than either treatment alone. More tumors developed in fibrotic than in normal pancreas, and prevention of tissue fibrosis greatly reduced tumor development.
The utmost importance of tissue fibrosis and of stroma cells for tumor development presents potential new therapy targets, suggesting combination therapy against stroma and neoplastic cells as a treatment of choice.
PMCID: PMC3404977  PMID: 22848627
14.  Factors Affecting Mortality following Myeloablative Cord Blood Transplantation in Adults: a Pooled Analysis of Three International Registries 
Bone Marrow Transplantation  2010;46(1):70-76.
A retrospective analysis was conducted to examine factors affecting early mortality following myeloablative, single-unit cord blood transplantation (CBT) for hematological malignancies in adolescents and adults. Data were collected from the three main CBT registries pooling 514 records of unrelated, single, unmanipulated, first myeloablative allogeneic CBTs conducted in North America or Europe from 1995 to 2005, with an HLA match ≥4/6 loci, in patients aged 12 to 55. Overall 100-, 180- day and 1-year survival (Kaplan-Meier method) were 56%, 46% and 37%, respectively, with no significant heterogeneity across registries. Multivariate analysis showed cell dose < 2.5×107/Kg (Odds Ratio [OR] 2.76, p<0.0001), older age (p=0.002), advanced disease (p=0.02), positive CMV sero-status (OR 1.37 p=0.11), female gender (OR 1.43, p=0.07) and limited CBT center experience (<10 records contributed, OR 2.08, p=0.0003) to be associated with higher 100-day mortality. A multivariate model predictive of 1-year mortality included similar prognostic factors except female gender. Transplant year did not appear as a significant independent predictor. This is the first analysis to pool records from three major CBT registries in the US and Europe. Despite some differences in practice patterns, survival was remarkably homogeneous. The resulting model may contribute to better understanding factors affecting CBT outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3366187  PMID: 20436518
Cord blood transplantation; registry; leukemia; mortality; leukemia
15.  Human Cytomegalovirus Kinetics Following Institution of Artesunate after Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation 
Antiviral Research  2011;90(3):183-186.
The anti-malaria drug artesunate has been shown to be an effective inhibitor of cytomegalovirus (CMV) in vitro, in an experimental animal model, and in a recent single-case clinical use. In this first case-series of 6 stem cell transplant recipients who received preemptive artesunate treatment for CMV infection, we have examined the viral kinetics following institution of artesunate, and employed first-phase viral kinetics studies to calculate its antiviral effectiveness. Two patients demonstrated a rapid 0.8-2.1 log viral load decline by 7 days, with a viral decay half-live of 0.9 -1.9d. Four patients demonstrated a continued yet stalled viral growth slope during treatment. No adverse events were noted in treatment courses of up to 28 days. Overall, a divergent antiviral efficacy was revealed, ranging from 43% to 90%, which appeared to be primarily dependent on the virus baseline growth dynamics. Further dose escalation studies are needed to examine the role of artesunate in the treatment of CMV infection in the transplantation setting.
PMCID: PMC3253856  PMID: 21443904
cytomegalovirus; artesunate; antiviral drugs; viral kinetics
16.  Novel Strategies for Immunotherapy in Multiple Myeloma: Previous Experience and Future Directions 
Multiple myeloma (MM) is a life-threatening haematological malignancy for which standard therapy is inadequate. Autologous stem cell transplantation is a relatively effective treatment, but residual malignant sites may cause relapse. Allogeneic transplantation may result in durable responses due to antitumour immunity mediated by donor lymphocytes. However, morbidity and mortality related to graft-versus-host disease remain a challenge. Recent advances in understanding the interaction between the immune system of the patient and the malignant cells are influencing the design of clinically more efficient study protocols for MM. Cellular immunotherapy using specific antigen-presenting cells (APCs), to overcome aspects of immune incompetence in MM patients, has received great attention, and numerous clinical trials have evaluated the potential for dendritic cell (DC) vaccines as a novel immunotherapeutic approach. This paper will summarize the data investigating aspects of immunity concerning MM, immunotherapy for patients with MM, and strategies, on the way, to target the plasma cell more selectively. We also include the MM antigens and their specific antibodies that are of potential use for MM humoral immunotherapy, because they have demonstrated the most promising preclinical results.
PMCID: PMC3357929  PMID: 22649466
17.  Characterization of Cyclin E Expression in Multiple Myeloma and Its Functional Role in Seliciclib-Induced Apoptotic Cell Death 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e33856.
Multiple Myeloma (MM) is a lymphatic neoplasm characterized by clonal proliferation of malignant plasma cell that eventually develops resistance to chemotherapy. Drug resistance, differentiation block and increased survival of the MM tumor cells result from high genomic instability. Chromosomal translocations, the most common genomic alterations in MM, lead to dysregulation of cyclin D, a regulatory protein that governs the activation of key cell cycle regulator – cyclin dependent kinase (CDK). Genomic instability was reported to be affected by over expression of another CDK regulator - cyclin E (CCNE). This occurs early in tumorigenesis in various lymphatic malignancies including CLL, NHL and HL. We therefore sought to investigate the role of cyclin E in MM. CCNE1 expression was found to be heterogeneous in various MM cell lines (hMMCLs). Incubation of hMMCLs with seliciclib, a selective CDK-inhibitor, results in apoptosis which is accompanied by down regulation of MCL1 and p27. Ectopic over expression of CCNE1 resulted in reduced sensitivity of the MM tumor cells in comparison to the paternal cell line, whereas CCNE1 silencing with siRNA increased the cell sensitivity to seliciclib. Adhesion to FN of hMMCLs was prevented by seliciclib, eliminating adhesion–mediated drug resistance of MM cells. Combination of seliciclib with flavopiridol effectively reduced CCNE1 and CCND1 protein levels, increased subG1 apoptotic fraction and promoted MM cell death in BMSCs co-culture conditions, therefore over-coming stroma-mediated protection. We suggest that seliciclib may be considered as essential component of modern anti MM drug combination therapy.
PMCID: PMC3338814  PMID: 22558078
18.  Halofuginone Has Anti-Proliferative Effects in Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia by Modulating the Transforming Growth Factor Beta Signaling Pathway 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26713.
Promyelocytic leukemia-retinoic acid receptor alpha (PML-RARα) expression in acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) impairs transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ) signaling, leading to cell growth advantage. Halofuginone (HF), a low-molecular-weight alkaloid that modulates TGFβ signaling, was used to treat APL cell lines and non-obese diabetic/severe combined immunodeficiency (NOD/SCID) mice subjected to transplantation with leukemic cells from human chorionic gonadotrophin-PML-RARα transgenic mice (TG). Cell cycle analysis using incorporated bromodeoxyuridine and 7-amino-actinomycin D showed that, in NB4 and NB4-R2 APL cell lines, HF inhibited cellular proliferation (P<0.001) and induced apoptosis (P = 0.002) after a 24-hour incubation. Addition of TGFβ revealed that NB4 cells were resistant to its growth-suppressive effects and that HF induced these effects in the presence or absence of the cytokine. Cell growth inhibition was associated with up-regulation of TGFβ target genes involved in cell cycle regulation (TGFB, TGFBRI, SMAD3, p15, and p21) and down-regulation of MYC. Additionally, TGFβ protein levels were decreased in leukemic TG animals and HF in vivo could restore TGFβ values to normal. To test the in vivo anti-leukemic activity of HF, we transplanted NOD/SCID mice with TG leukemic cells and treated them with HF for 21 days. HF induced partial hematological remission in the peripheral blood, bone marrow, and spleen. Together, these results suggest that HF has anti-proliferative and anti-leukemic effects by reversing the TGFβ blockade in APL. Since loss of the TGFβ response in leukemic cells may be an important second oncogenic hit, modulation of TGFβ signaling may be of therapeutic interest.
PMCID: PMC3203897  PMID: 22053203
19.  Heparanase upregulaes Th2 cytokines, ameliorating experimental autoimmune encephalitis 
Molecular immunology  2010;47(10):1890-1898.
Heparanase is an endo–β–D-glucuronidase that cleaves heparan sulfate (HS) saccharide chains. The enzyme promotes cell adhesion, migration and invasion and plays a significant role in cancer metastasis, angiogenesis and inflammation. The present study focuses on the involvement of heparanase in autoimmunity, applying the murine experimental autoimmune encephalitis (EAE) model, a T cell dependent disease often used to investigate the pathophysiology of multiple sclerosis (MS). Intraperitoneal administration of recombinant heparanase ameliorated, in a dose dependent manner, the clinical signs of the disease. In vitro and in vivo studies revealed that heparanase inhibited mitogen induced splenocyte proliferation and mixed lymophocyte reaction (MLR) through modulation of their repertoire of cytokines indicated by a marked increase in the levels of IL-4, IL-6 and IL-10, and a parallel decrease in IL-12 and TNF-α. Similar results were obtained with active, latent, or point mutated inactive heparanase, indicating that the observed inhibitory effect is attributed to a non-enzymatic activity of the heparanase protein. We suggest that heparanase induces upregulation of Th2 cytokines, resulting in inhibition of the inflammatory lesion of EAE.
PMCID: PMC2865651  PMID: 20399501
Heparanase; experimental autoimmune encephalitis; inflammation; cytokines
20.  The aberrant asynchronous replication — characterizing lymphocytes of cancer patients — is erased following stem cell transplantation 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:230.
Aberrations of allelic replication timing are epigenetic markers observed in peripheral blood cells of cancer patients. The aberrant markers are non-cancer-type-specific and are accompanied by increased levels of sporadic aneuploidy. The study aimed at following the epigenetic markers and aneuploidy levels in cells of patients with haematological malignancies from diagnosis to full remission, as achieved by allogeneic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT).
TP53 (a tumor suppressor gene assigned to chromosome 17), AML1 (a gene assigned to chromosome 21 and involved in the leukaemia-abundant 8;21 translocation) and the pericentomeric satellite sequence of chromosome 17 (CEN17) were used for replication timing assessments. Aneuploidy was monitored by enumerating the copy numbers of chromosomes 17 and 21. Replication timing and aneuploidy were detected cytogenetically using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) technology applied to phytohemagglutinin (PHA)-stimulated lymphocytes.
We show that aberrant epigenetic markers are detected in patients with hematological malignancies from the time of diagnosis through to when they are scheduled to undergo alloSCT. These aberrations are unaffected by the clinical status of the disease and are displayed both during accelerated stages as well as in remission. Yet, these markers are eradicated completely following stem cell transplantation. In contrast, the increased levels of aneuploidy (irreversible genetic alterations) displayed in blood lymphocytes at various stages of disease are not eliminated following transplantation. However, they do not elevate and remain unchanged (stable state). A demethylating anti-cancer drug, 5-azacytidine, applied in vitro to lymphocytes of patients prior to transplantation mimics the effect of transplantation: the epigenetic aberrations disappear while aneuploidy stays unchanged.
The reversible nature of the replication aberrations may serve as potential epigenetic blood markers for evaluating the success of transplant or other treatments and for long-term follow up of the patients who have overcome a hematological malignancy.
PMCID: PMC2887401  PMID: 20497575
21.  Heparanase Promotes Engraftment and Prevents Graft versus Host Disease in Stem Cell Transplantation 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(4):e10135.
Heparanase, endoglycosidase that cleaves heparan sulfate side chains of heparan sulfate proteoglycans, plays important roles in cancer metastasis, angiogenesis and inflammation.
Design and Methods
Applying a mouse model of bone marrow transplantation and transgenic mice over-expressing heparanase, we evaluated the effect of heparanase on the engraftment process and the development of graft-versus-host disease.
Analysis of F1 mice undergoing allogeneic bone marrow transplantation from C57BL/6 mice demonstrated a better and faster engraftment in mice receiving cells from donors that were pretreated with heparanase. Moreover, heparanase treated recipient F1 mice showed only a mild appearance of graft-versus-host disease and died 27 days post transplantation while control mice rapidly developed signs of graft-versus-host disease (i.e., weight loss, hair loss, diarrhea) and died after 12 days, indicating a protective effect of heparanase against graft-versus-host disease. Similarly, we applied transgenic mice over-expressing heparanase in most tissues as the recipients of BMT from C57BL/6 mice. Monitoring clinical parameters of graft-versus-host disease, the transgenic mice showed 100% survival on day 40 post transplantation, compared to only 50% survival on day 14, in the control group. In vitro and in vivo studies revealed that heparanase inhibited T cell function and activation through modulation of their cytokine repertoire, indicated by a marked increase in the levels of Interleukin-4, Interleukin-6 and Interleukin-10, and a parallel decrease in Interleukin-12, tumor necrosis factor-alfa and interferon-gamma. Using point mutated inactive enzyme, we found that the shift in cytokine profile was independent of heparanase enzymatic activity.
Our results indicate a significant role of heparanase in bone marrow transplantation biology, facilitating engraftment and suppressing graft-versus-host disease, apparently through an effect on T cell activation and cytokine production pattern.
PMCID: PMC2855345  PMID: 20419162
22.  Human Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells: Rational for Use as a Neuroprotectant in Ischemic Brain Disease 
The use of stem cells for reparative medicine was first proposed more than three decades ago. Hematopoietic stem cells from bone marrow, peripheral blood and human umbilical cord blood (CB) have gained major use for treatment of hematological indications. CB, however, is also a source of cells capable of differentiating into various non-hematopoietic cell types, including neural cells. Several animal model reports have shown that CB cells may be used for treatment of neurological injuries. This review summarizes the information available on the origin of CB-derived neuronal cells and the mechanisms proposed to explain their action. The potential use of stem/progenitor cells for treatment of ischemic brain injuries is discussed. Issues that remain to be resolved at the present stage of preclinical trials are addressed.
PMCID: PMC2956109  PMID: 20957109
human umbilical cord blood stem cells; brain ischemia; neuroprotection
23.  Natural Killer Lysis Receptor (NKLR)/NKLR-Ligand Matching as a Novel Approach for Enhancing Anti-Tumor Activity of Allogeneic NK Cells 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(5):e5597.
NK cells are key players in anti tumor immune response, which can be employed in cell-based therapeutic modalities. One of the suggested ways to amplify their anti tumor effect, especially in the field of stem cell transplantation, is by selecting donor/recipient mismatches in specific HLA, to reduce the inhibitory effect of killer Ig-like receptors (KIRs). Here we suggest an alternative approach for augmentation of anti tumor effect of allogeneic NK cells, which is founded on profile matching of donor NK lysis receptors (NKLR) phenotype with tumor lysis-ligands.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We show that an NKLR-mediated killing directly correlates with the NKLR expression intensity on NK cells. Considerable donor variability in the expression of CD16, NKp46, NKG2D and NKp30 on circulating NK cells, combined with the stability of phenotype in several independently performed tests over two months, indicates that NKLR-guided selection of donors is feasible. As a proof of concept, we show that melanoma cells are dominantly recognized by three NKLRs: NKG2D, NKp30 and NKp44. Notably, the expression of NKp30 on circulating NK cells among metastatic melanoma patients was significantly decreased, which diminishes their ability to kill melanoma cells. Ex vivo expansion of NK cells results not only in increased amount of cells but also in a consistently superior and predictable expression of NKG2D, NKp30 and NKp44. Moreover, expanded NK cultures with high expression of NKG2D or NKp30 were mostly derived from the corresponding NKG2Dhigh or NK30high donors. These NK cultures subsequently displayed an improved cytotoxic activity against melanoma in a HLA/KIR-ligand mismatched setup, which was NKLR-dependent, as demonstrated with blocking anti-NKG2D antibodies.
NKLR/NKLR-ligand matching reproducibly elicits enhanced NK anti-tumor response. Common NKLR recognition patterns of tumors, as demonstrated here in melanoma, would allow implementation of this approach in solid malignancies and potentially in hematological malignancies, either independently or in adjunction to other modalities.
PMCID: PMC2680030  PMID: 19440333
24.  Freeze-Drying of Mononuclear Cells Derived from Umbilical Cord Blood Followed by Colony Formation 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(4):e5240.
We recently showed that freeze-dried cells stored for 3 years at room temperature can direct embryonic development following cloning. However, viability, as evaluated by membrane integrity of the cells after freeze-drying, was very low; and it was mainly the DNA integrity that was preserved. In the present study, we improved the cells' viability and functionality after freeze-drying.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We optimized the conditions of directional freezing, i.e. interface velocity and cell concentration, and we added the antioxidant EGCG to the freezing solution. The study was performed on mononuclear cells (MNCs) derived from human umbilical cord blood. After freeze-drying, we tested the viability, number of CD34+-presenting cells and ability of the rehydrated hematopoietic stem cells to differentiate into different blood cells in culture. The viability of the MNCs after freeze-drying and rehydration with pure water was 88%–91%. The total number of CD34+-presenting cells and the number of colonies did not change significantly when evaluated before freezing, after freeze-thawing, and after freeze-drying (5.4×104±4.7, 3.49×104±6 and 6.31×104±12.27 cells, respectively, and 31±25.15, 47±45.8 and 23.44±13.3 colonies, respectively).
This is the first report of nucleated cells which have been dried and then rehydrated with double-distilled water remaining viable, and of hematopoietic stem cells retaining their ability to differentiate into different blood cells.
PMCID: PMC2667668  PMID: 19381290
25.  Interaction between CXCR4 and CCL20 Pathways Regulates Tumor Growth 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(4):e5125.
The chemokine receptor CXCR4 and its ligand CXCL12 is overexpressed in the majority of tumors and is critically involved in the development and metastasis of these tumors. CXCR4 is expressed in malignant tumor cells whereas its ligand SDF-1 (CXCL12) is expressed mainly by cancer associated fibroblasts (CAF). Similarly to CXCR4, the chemokine CCL20 is overexpressed in variety of tumors; however its role and regulation in tumors is not fully clear. Here, we show that the chemokine receptor CXCR4 stimulates the production of the chemokine CCL20 and that CCL20 stimulates the proliferation and adhesion to collagen of various tumor cells. Furthermore, overexpression of CCL20 in tumor cells promotes growth and adhesion in vitro and increased tumor growth and invasiveness in vivo. Moreover, neutralizing antibodies to CCL20 inhibit the in vivo growth of tumors that either overexpress CXCR4 or CCL20 or naturally express CCL20. These results reveal a role for CCL20 in CXCR4-dependent and -independent tumor growth and suggest a therapeutic potential for CCL20 and CCR6 antagonists in the treatment of CXCR4- and CCL20-dependent malignancies.
PMCID: PMC2659745  PMID: 19340288

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