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1.  The Macrophage Galactose-Type C-Type Lectin (MGL) Modulates Regulatory T Cell Functions 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0132617.
Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are physiologically designed to prevent autoimmune disease and maintain self-tolerance. In tumour microenvironments, their presence is related to a poor prognosis, and they influence the therapeutic outcome due to their capacity to suppress the immune response by cell-cell contact and to release immunosuppressive cytokines. In this study, we demonstrate that Treg immunosuppressive activity can be modulated by the cross-linking between the CD45RA expressed by Tregs and the C-type lectin MGL. This specific interaction strongly decreases the im-munosuppressive activity of Tregs, restoring the proliferative capacity of co-cultured T lymphocytes. This effect can be attributed to changes in CD45RA and TCR signalling through the inhibition of Lck and inactivation of Zap-70, an increase in the Foxp3 methylation status and, ultimately, the reduced production of suppressive cytokines. These results indicate a role of MGL as an immunomodulator within the tumour microenvironment interfering with Treg functions, suggesting its possible use in the design of anticancer vaccines.
PMCID: PMC4493043  PMID: 26147970
2.  Gene Expression Profile of Patients with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser Syndrome: New Insights into the Potential Role of Developmental Pathways 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91010.
Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome (MRKHS) is a rare disease characterized by congenital aplasia of uterus and vagina. Although many studies have investigated several candidate genes, up to now none of them seem to be responsible for the aetiology of the syndrome. In our study, we identified differences in gene expression profile of in vitro cultured vaginal tissue of MRHKS patients using whole-genome microarray analysis. A group of eight out of sixteen MRKHS patients that underwent reconstruction of neovagina with an autologous in vitro cultured vaginal tissue were subjected to microarray analysis and compared with five healthy controls. Results obtained by array were confirmed by qRT-PCR and further extended to other eight MRKHS patients. Gene profiling of MRKHS patients delineated 275 differentially expressed genes, of which 133 downregulated and 142 upregulated. We selected six deregulated genes (MUC1, HOXC8, HOXB2, HOXB5, JAG1 and DLL1) on the basis of their fold change, their differential expression in most patients and their relevant role in embryological development. All patients showed upregulation of MUC1, while HOXB2 and HOXB5 were downregulated, as well as Notch ligands JAG1 and DLL1 in the majority of them. Interestingly, HOXC8 was significantly upregulated in 47% of patients, with a differential expression only in MRKHS type I patients. Taken together, our results highlighted the dysregulation of developmental genes, thus suggesting a potential alteration of networks involved in the formation of the female reproductive tract and providing a useful clue for understanding the pathophysiology of MRKHS.
PMCID: PMC3946625  PMID: 24608967
4.  First case of isolated vaginal metastasis from breast cancer treated by surgery 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:479.
Breast cancer is a leading cause of death in developed countries. This neoplasm frequently relapses at distant sites such as bone, lung, pleura, brain and liver but rarely in the lower female genital tract.
Case presentation
We present the first case of isolated vaginal breast cancer metastasis and its surgical treatment.
This case report focuses on the importance of an accurate genital tract examination as part of regular follow up in breast cancer survivors. Indeed, after this experience we feel that surgery could be considered a valid option for the treatment of an isolated vaginal metastasis.
PMCID: PMC3495020  PMID: 23075305
Breast cancer; Radical surgery; Vaginal metastasis
5.  Monoclonal Antibodies in Gynecological Cancer: A Critical Point of View 
During the last decades, several improvements in treating gynecological malignancies have been achieved. In particular, target therapies, mostly monoclonal antibodies, have emerged as an attractive option for the treatment of these malignancies. In fact, various molecular-targeted agents have been developed for a variety of malignancies with the objective to interfere with a precise tumor associated receptor, essential for cancer cell survival or proliferation, blocking its function, of the cancer cells. Alternatively, monoclonal antibodies have been developed to block immune suppression or enhance functions of immune effector cells. So far, several monoclonal antibodies have been tested for clinical efficacy for the treatment of gynecological cancers. Antibodies against Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) and Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) have been used in different neoplasms such as ovarian and cervical cancer. Catumazumab, a bivalent antibody against CD3 and EpCAM, is effective in the treatment of neoplastic ascites. Other antibodies are peculiar for specific cancer-associated antigen such as Oregovomab against CA125 or Farletuzumab against the folate receptor. Here we describe the preclinical and clinical experience gained up to now with monoclonal antibodies in tumors of the female genital tract and trace future therapeutic and research venues.
PMCID: PMC3253445  PMID: 22235224
6.  HER2-based recombinant immunogen to target DCs through FcγRs for cancer immunotherapy 
Dendritic cell (DC)-based immunotherapy is an attractive approach to induce long lasting antitumor effector cells aiming to control cancer progression. DC targeting is a critical step in the design of DC vaccines in order to optimize delivery and processing of the antigen, and several receptors have been characterized for this purpose. In this study, we employed the FcγRs to target DCs both in vitro and in vivo. We designed a recombinant molecule (HER2-Fc) composed of the immunogenic sequence of the human tumor-associated antigen HER2 (aa 364–391) and the Fc domain of a human IgG1. In a mouse model, HER2-Fc cDNA vaccination activated significant T cell-mediated immune responses towards HER2 peptide epitopes as detected by IFN-γ ELIspot and induced longer tumor latency as compared to Ctrl-Fc-vaccinated control mice. Human in vitro studies indicated that the recombinant HER2-Fc immunogen efficiently targeted human DCs through the FcγRs resulting in protein cross-processing and in the activation of autologous HER2-specific CD8+ T cells from breast cancer patients.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00109-011-0794-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3218291  PMID: 21845448
Dendritic cells; Cancer immunotherapy; HER2; Antigen processing; FcγR; Dendritic cell targeting
7.  Immune Effects of Trastuzumab 
Journal of Cancer  2011;2:317-323.
Trastuzumab's targeted therapy has become a stronghold for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 positive breast cancer patients. This humanized monoclonal antibody binds to the extracellular juxta-membrane domain of HER2 and inhibits the proliferation and survival of HER2 dependent cancer cells. The ways by which this molecule exerts its action have been partially elucidated but several new mechanisms are being constantly identified. Several new agents are being introduced that interfere with HER2. Several new immunotherapy strategies are being introduced in order to direct the immune system against cells and tissues that aberrantly overexpressed HER2. We review the strategies currently adopted and those suggested against HER2 expressing tumors.
PMCID: PMC3119394  PMID: 21716848
autologous cells vaccines; Trastuzumab; HER2; Lapatinib; allo-vesicles
8.  Ovarian cancer cytoreduction induces changes in T cell population subsets reducing immunosuppression 
Surgery is the primary therapeutic strategy for most solid tumours; however, modern oncology has established that neoplasms are frequently systemic diseases. Being however a local treatment, the mechanisms through which surgery plays its systemic role remain unknown. We have investigated the influence of cytoreduction on the immune system of primary and recurrent ovarian cancer. All ovarian cancer patients show an increase in CD4+CD25+FOXP3+ circulating cells (CD4 Treg). CD4/CD8 ratio is increased in primary tumours, but not in recurrent neoplasms. Primary cytoreduction is able to increase circulating CD4 and CD8 effector cells and decrease CD4 naïve T cells. CD4+ Treg cells rapidly decreased after primary tumour debulking, while CD8+CD25+FOXP3+ (CD8 Treg) cells are not detectable in peripheral blood. Similar results on CD4 Treg were observed with chemical debulking in women subjected to neoadjuvant chemotherapy. CD4 and CD8 Treg cells are both present in neoplastic tissue. Interleukin (IL)-10 serum levels decrease after surgery, while no changes are observed in transforming growth factor-β1 and IL-6 levels. Surgically induced reduction of the immunosuppressive environment results in an increased capacity of CD8+ T cells to respond to the recall antigens. None of these changes was observed in patients previously subjected to chemotherapy or affected by recurrent disease. In conclusion, we demonstrate in ovarian cancer that primary debulking is associated with a reduction of circulating Treg and an increase in CD8 T-cell function. Debulking plays a beneficial systemic effect by reverting immunosuppression and restoring immunological fitness.
PMCID: PMC3822725  PMID: 19780872
interval debulking surgery; ovarian cancer; primary cytoreduction; secondary cytoreduction; Treg cells

Results 1-8 (8)