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1.  Angiogenesis and antiangiogenic agents in cervical cancer 
OncoTargets and therapy  2014;7:2237-2248.
Standard treatment of cervical cancer (CC) consists of surgery in the early stages and of chemoradiation in locally advanced disease. Metastatic CC has a poor prognosis and is usually treated with palliative platinum-based chemotherapy. Current chemotherapeutic regimens are associated with significant adverse effects and only limited activity, making identification of active and tolerable novel targeted agents a high priority. Angiogenesis is a complex process that plays a crucial role in the development of many types of cancer. The dominant role of angiogenesis in CC seems to be directly related to human papillomavirus-related inhibition of p53 and stabilization of hypoxia-inducible factor-1α. Both of these mechanisms are able to increase expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Activation of VEGF promotes endothelial cell proliferation and migration, favoring formation of new blood vessels and increasing permeability of existing blood vessels. Since bevacizumab, a recombinant humanized monoclonal antibody binding to all isoforms of VEGF, has been demonstrated to significantly improve survival in gynecologic cancer, some recent clinical research has explored the possibility of using novel therapies directed toward inhibition of angiogenesis in CC too. Here we review the main results from studies concerning the use of antiangiogenic drugs that are being investigated for the treatment of CC.
PMCID: PMC4259513  PMID: 25506227
cervical cancer; angiogenesis; human papillomavirus; bevacizumab; target therapies
2.  Topical KGF treatment as a therapeutic strategy for vaginal atrophy in a model of ovariectomized mice 
One of the most frequent complaints for post-menopausal women is vaginal atrophy, because of reduction in circulating oestrogens. Treatments based on local oestrogen administration have been questioned as topic oestrogens can reach the bloodstream, thus leading to consider their safety as controversial, especially for patients with a history of breast or endometrial cancers. Recently, growth factors have been shown to interact with the oestrogen pathway, but the mechanisms still need to be fully clarified. In this study, we investigated the effect of keratinocyte growth factor (KGF), a known mitogen for epithelial cells, on human vaginal mucosa cells, and its potential crosstalk with oestrogen pathways. We also tested the in vivo efficacy of KGF local administration on vaginal atrophy in a murine model. We demonstrated that KGF is able to induce proliferation of vaginal mucosa, and we gained insight on its mechanism of action by highlighting its contribution to switch ERα signalling towards non-genomic pathway. Moreover, we demonstrated that KGF restores vaginal trophism in vivo similarly to intravaginal oestrogenic preparations, without systemic effects. Therefore, we suggest a possible alternative therapy for vaginal atrophy devoid of the risks related to oestrogen-based treatments, and a patent (no. RM2012A000404) has been applied for this study.
PMCID: PMC4196664  PMID: 25088572
keratinocyte growth factor; vaginal atrophy; non-genomic ERα pathways
3.  Characterization of Human Vaginal Mucosa Cells for Autologous In Vitro Cultured Vaginal Tissue Transplantation in Patients with MRKH Syndrome 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:201518.
Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) is a rare syndrome characterized by congenital aplasia of the uterus and vagina. The most common procedure used for surgical reconstruction of the neovagina is the McIndoe vaginoplasty, which consists in creation of a vaginal canal covered with a full-thickness skin graft. Here we characterized the autologous in vitro cultured vaginal tissue proposed as alternative material in our developed modified McIndoe vaginoplasty in order to underlie its importance in autologous total vaginal replacement. To this aim human vaginal mucosa cells (HVMs) were isolated from vaginal mucosa of patients affected by MRKH syndrome and characterized with respect to growth kinetics, morphology, PAS staining, and expression of specific epithelial markers by immunofluorescence, Western blot, and qRT-PCR analyses. The presence of specific epithelial markers along with the morphology and the presence of mucified cells demonstrated the epithelial nature of HMVs, important for an efficient epithelialization of the neovagina walls and for creating a functional vaginal cavity. Moreover, these cells presented characteristics of effective proliferation as demonstrated by growth kinetics assay. Therefore, the autologous in vitro cultured vaginal tissue might represent a highly promising and valid material for McIndoe vaginoplasty.
PMCID: PMC4139028  PMID: 25162002
4.  Targeted drug delivery via folate receptors in recurrent ovarian cancer: a review 
OncoTargets and therapy  2014;7:1223-1236.
Ovarian cancer is the most common cause of gynecological cancer-related mortality, with the majority of women presenting with advanced disease; although chemotherapeutic advances have improved progression-free survival, conventional treatments offer limited results in terms of long-term responses and survival. Research has recently focused on targeted therapies, which represent a new, promising therapeutic approach, aimed to maximize tumor kill and minimize toxicity. Besides antiangiogenetic agents and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibitors, the folate, with its membrane-bound receptor, is currently one of the most investigated alternatives. In particular, folate receptor (FR) has been shown to be frequently overexpressed on the surface of almost all epithelial ovarian cancers, making this receptor an excellent tumor-associated antigen. There are two basic strategies to targeting FRs with therapeutic intent: the first is based on anti-FR antibody (ie, farletuzumab) and the second is based on folate–chemotherapy conjugates (ie, vintafolide/etarfolatide). Both strategies have been investigated in Phase III clinical trials. The aim of this review is to analyze the research regarding the activity of these promising anti-FR agents in patients affected by ovarian cancer, including anti-FR antibodies and folate–chemotherapy conjugates.
PMCID: PMC4096491  PMID: 25031539
ovarian cancer; targeted therapies; folate receptor; antifolate; farletuzumab; vintafolide
5.  Are Mood and Anxiety Disorders and Alexithymia Associated with Endometriosis? A Preliminary Study 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:786830.
Objective. The aim of this preliminary study was to determine whether psychiatric disorders, psychopathological symptoms, and alexithymia are associated with endometriosis in an Italian population. Study Design. A preliminary study comprising 37 Italian patients with surgically confirmed endometriosis and 43 controls, without clinical and ultrasound signs of endometriosis, was carried out. Both patients and controls were evaluated for the presence/absence of psychiatric disorders, psychopathological symptoms, alexithymia, and pain symptoms (nonmenstrual pelvic pain, dysmenorrhea, and dyspareunia). Results. Statistically significant differences were found between cases and controls for prevalence of mood and anxiety disorders, malfunctioning on obsessive-compulsive subscale (P < 0.01) and depression subscale (P < 0.05) of the Symptom Checklist-90-Revisited (SCL-90-R), and higher alexithymia levels (P < 0.01). Patients with endometriosis-associated pain showed greater prevalence of psychiatric disorders compared to pain-free patients but that difference was not significant. Significant correlation was found between malfunctioning in some SCL-90-R dimensions and pelvic pain, dysmenorrhea, and dyspareunia scores at the visual analog score (VAS). Conclusion. Some psychopathological aspects, such as psychoemotional distress and alexithymia, are more frequent in women with endometriosis and might amplify pain symptoms in these patients.
PMCID: PMC4090426  PMID: 25045701
6.  Lack of association between serotonin transporter 5-HTT gene polymorphism and endometriosis in an Italian patient population 
The aim of this study was to determine whether the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTT), a key component in the control of the serotonergic system, is associated with endometriosis in an Italian population.
A case–control study, comprising 137 Italian patients with surgically confirmed endometriosis and 120 healthy controls, was carried out. 5-HTT genotypes (LL, SL and SS) were obtained by polymerase chain reaction and gel electrophoresis analysis. We found no overall difference in genotypic and allelic distributions of the 5-HTT gene between cases and controls.
Our results suggest that the 5-HTT L/S promoter polymorphism is not associated with susceptibility to endometriosis in the studied Italian patients.
PMCID: PMC4066692  PMID: 24925205
Endometriosis; Serotonin transporter gene (5-HTT) L/S polymorphism; Case–control study
7.  Fertility drugs, reproductive strategies and ovarian cancer risk 
Several adverse effects have been related to infertility treatments, such as cancer development. In particular, the relationship between infertility, reproductive strategies, and risk of gynecological cancers has aroused much interest in recent years. The evaluation of cancer risk among women treated for infertility is very complex, mainly because of many factors that can contribute to occurrence of cancer in these patients (including parity status). This article addresses the possible association between the use of fertility treatments and the risk of ovarian cancer, through a scrupulous search of the literature published thus far in this field. Our principal objective was to give more conclusive answers on the question whether the use of fertility drug significantly increases ovarian cancer risk. Our analysis focused on the different types of drugs and different treatment schedules used. This study provides additional insights regarding the long-term relationships between fertility drugs and risk of ovarian cancer.
PMCID: PMC4020377  PMID: 24829615
Fertility drugs; Ovarian cancer; Ovarian stimulation; in vitro fertilization; Clomiphene citrate
8.  Impaired uterine artery flow associated with the presence of ovarian endometrioma: preliminary results of a prospective study 
Aim of this prospective, case–control study was to evaluate uterine arteries’ blood flow before and after laparoscopic surgery in patients with ovarian endometriosis and its possible correlation with infertility.
We prospectively enrolled 110 women of reproductive age; 69 with ovarian endometriomas and scheduled for surgery, and 41 controls. At enrolment, a detailed medical, gynecologic and obstetric history was collected. Fertility and pregnancy desire were assessed. All patients underwent complete physical and gynecologic examination. Transvaginal ultrasound with Doppler color flow was performed to evaluate Resistance Index (RI) of uterine arteries during the secretory phase, at enrolment (T0) and 3 months after laparoscopic surgery (T1).
Among cases, 27 patients were excluded because they did not meet the inclusion criteria. At enrolment (T0) unilateral or bilateral flow alterations (RI ≥ 0.8) were found in 38 out of 42 patients with ovarian endometriosis (90%), whereas in the control group only 17 women (41%) had Doppler alterations. The difference in uterine artery RI values between cases and controls was statistically significant (P < 0.0001). A statistically significant improvement in uterine artery flow (P <0.0001) was found 3 months after surgical treatment of endometriosis. Nineteen patients with endometriosis (45%) were infertile before surgery; all of them presented uterine artery Doppler alterations at T0. After surgery the pregnancy rate was significantly higher in patients who presented uterine artery flow normalization than in those with persistent uterine artery flow alterations (p = 0.002).
A strong correlation was found between uterine artery flow abnormalities and ovarian endometriosis. Uterine artery flow improvement following surgery seems to increase the probabilities of achieving pregnancy.
PMCID: PMC3900471  PMID: 24401654
Color doppler; Endometriosis; Infertility; Ultrasounds; Uterine artery flow; Resistance Index (RI)
9.  Investigating Molecular Profiles of Ovarian Cancer: An Update on Cancer Stem Cells 
Journal of Cancer  2014;5(5):301-310.
Currently we are more and more improving our knowledge about the characteristics and the role of cancer stem cells in human cancer. Particularly we have realized that self-renewing ovarian cancer stem cells (CSCs) or ovarian cancer-initiating cells, and mesenchymal stem cells (SCs) too, are probably implicated in the etiopathogenesis of epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). There is clear evidence that these cells are also involved in its intra- and extra-peritoneal diffusion and in the occurrence of chemo-resistance. In assessing the molecular characteristics of ovarian CSCs, we have to take note that these cellular populations are rare and the absence of specific cell surface markers represents a challenge to isolate and identify pure SC populations. In our review, we focused our attention on the molecular characteristics of epithelial ovarian CSCs and on the methods to detect them starting from their biological features. The study of ovarian CSCs is taking on an increasingly important strategic role, mostly for the potential therapeutic application in the next future.
PMCID: PMC3982176  PMID: 24723972
Epithelial ovarian cancer; Ovarian cancer stem cells; Cancer stem cells markers; Tumor microenvironment; Therapeutic targets.
11.  Is CA72-4 a Useful Biomarker in Differential Diagnosis between Ovarian Endometrioma and Epithelial Ovarian Cancer? 
Disease markers  2013;35(5):331-335.
Background. Surgical excision of ovarian endometriomas in patients desiring pregnancy has recently been criticized because of the risk of damage to healthy ovarian tissue and consequent reduction of ovarian reserve. A correct diagnosis in cases not scheduled for surgery is therefore mandatory in order to avoid unexpected ovarian cancer misdiagnosis. Endometriosis is often associated with high levels of CA125. This marker is therefore not useful for discriminating ovarian endometrioma from ovarian malignancy. The aim of this study was to establish if the serum marker CA72-4 could be helpful in the differential diagnosis between ovarian endometriosis and epithelial ovarian cancer. Methods. Serums CA125 and CA72-4 were measured in 72 patients with ovarian endometriomas and 55 patients with ovarian cancer. Results. High CA125 concentrations were observed in patients with ovarian endometriosis and in those with ovarian cancer. A marked difference in CA72-4 values was observed between women with ovarian cancer (71.0%) and patients with endometriosis (13.8%) (P < 0.0001). Conclusions. This study suggests that CA72-4 determination can be useful to confirm the benign nature of ovarian endometriomas in women with high CA125 levels.
PMCID: PMC3793285  PMID: 24191126
12.  Vulvar Malignancy in Neurofibromatosis Syndrome 
Type 1 neurofibromatosis (NF1) is a dominantly inherited neurologic disorder that affects primarily the skin, bones, and peripheral nervous system. It may be associated with a variety of clinical manifestations including cafe-au-lait spots, skinfold freckling, Lisch nodules, and visceral neurofibromas. Individuals affected by NF1 harbor an increased risk for both benign and malignant tumors. Malignant transformation is usually observed in the form of neurosarcoma. Rarely, NF1 affects the genital tract, and isolated vulvar localization is extremely rare. Here is reported a rare case of a solitary neurosarcoma of the vulva in a 43-year-old woman affected by NF1 syndrome treated with surgical excision. The purpose of this case is to underline the possibility of association between NF1 and genital tract sarcoma and to suggest an accurate evaluation of rapid growth vulvar mass in this setting.
PMCID: PMC3792537  PMID: 24167749
13.  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
14.  A Small Molecule SMAC Mimic LBW242 Potentiates TRAIL- and Anticancer Drug-Mediated Cell Death of Ovarian Cancer Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35073.
Ovarian cancer remains a leading cause of death in women and development of new therapies is essential. Second mitochondria derived activator of caspase (SMAC) has been described to sensitize for apoptosis. We have explored the pro-apoptotic activity of LBW242, a mimic of SMAC/DIABLO, on ovarian cancer cell lines (A2780 cells and its chemoresistant derivative A2780/ADR, SKOV3 and HEY cells) and in primary ovarian cancer cells. The effects of LBW242 on ovarian cancer cell lines and primary ovarian cancer cells was determined by cell proliferation, apoptosis and biochemical assays.
Principal Findings
LBW242 added alone elicited only a moderate pro-apoptotic effect; however, it strongly synergizes with tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis inducing ligand (TRAIL) or anticancer drugs in inducing apoptosis of both ovarian cancer cell lines and primary ovarian cancer cells. Mechanistic studies show that LBW242-induced apoptosis in ovarian cancer cells is associated with activation of caspase-8. In line with this mechanism, c-FLIP overexpression inhibits LBW242-mediated apoptosis.
LBW242 sensitizes ovarian cancer cells to the antitumor effects of TRAIL and anticancer drugs commonly used in clinic. These observations suggest that the SMAC/DIABLO mimic LBW242 could be of value for the development of experimental strategies for treatment of ovarian cancer.
PMCID: PMC3338831  PMID: 22558117
15.  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
16.  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
17.  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
18.  Multiple Bulky Lymph Nodal Metastasis in Microinvasive Cervical Cancer: A Case Report and Literature Review 
Case Reports in Oncology  2010;3(2):176-181.
Microinvasive squamous cell cervival carcinoma is characterized by an exceptional incidence of lymph nodal metastasis. We report the case of a 45-year-old woman affected by IA1 squamous cell carcinoma, found to have massive pelvic lymph nodal metastasis. After a systematic pelvic and aortic selective lymphadenectomy, at 16 months of follow-up, she is still disease-free. Patients suitable for conservative therapy should be carefully counselled about the established risks and benefits of nondestructive treatment options.
PMCID: PMC2919996  PMID: 20740193
Cervical cancer; Microinvasive carcinoma; Lymph nodal spread; Bulky

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