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1.  Treatment and survival of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis associated hepatocellular carcinoma 
BMC Cancer  2015;15:210.
The incidence of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is increasing worldwide and a poorly defined subset of patients develops end-stage liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Differences in the biological behaviour, tumour characteristics, associated risk factors, treatment outcomes and overall survival of patients with NASH-HCC remain poorly defined. The aim of this study was to determine and analyze these differences in a large clinical cohort to guide treatment decisions.
1119 patients with HCC treated in an 11 year period at the University Medical Centre of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz were retrospectively analyzed.
Patients with NASH-HCC (n = 45) were older (67.6 vs. 65 years), had an increased frequency of the metabolic syndrome and complications with a higher incidence of obesity (31.1% vs. 14.7%), type II diabetes mellitus (66.7% vs. 37.85%), a higher rate of myocardial infarction (13.3% vs. 4.8%) and apoplectic stroke (8.9% vs. 2.1%) (all p < 0.05). Interestingly, liver function was preserved to a higher extent and MELD scores were significantly lower in NASH-HCC. Nonetheless, resection or orthotopic liver transplantation was performed only in 17.8% and 4.4% of NASH-HCC respectively. Overall survival was lower compared to HCC of other aetiologies. Independent of the underlying aetiology BMI exhibited a positive correlation with overall survival.
Despite retained liver function, patients with NASH-associated HCC showed a decreased overall survival. With regards to the expected increasing prevalence of NASH, it will be necessary to improve screening and surveillance strategies to identify HCC in NASH early and improve survival.
PMCID: PMC4407550  PMID: 25884354
NASH; HCC; Overall survival; Clinical database
2.  Prospective, open, multi-centre phase I/II trial to assess safety and efficacy of neoadjuvant radiochemotherapy with docetaxel and oxaliplatin in patients with adenocarcinoma of the oesophagogastric junction  
BMC Cancer  2013;13:75.
This phase I/II-trial assessed the dose-limiting toxicities (DLT) and maximum tolerated dose (MTD) of neoadjuvant radiochemotherapy (RCT) with docetaxel and oxaliplatin in patients with locally advanced adenocarcinoma of the oesophagogastric junction.
Patients received neoadjuvant radiotherapy (50.4 Gy) together with weekly docetaxel (20 mg/m2 at dose level (DL) 1 and 2, 25 mg/m2 at DL 3) and oxaliplatin (40 mg/m2 at DL 1, 50 mg/m2 at DL 2 and 3) over 5 weeks. The primary endpoint was the DLT and the MTD of the RCT regimen. Secondary endpoints included overall response rate (ORR) and progression-free survival (PFS).
A total of 24 patients were included. Four patients were treated at DL 1, 13 patients at DL 2 and 7 patients at DL 3. The MTD of the RCT was considered DL 2 with docetaxel 20 mg/m2 and oxaliplatin 50 mg/m2. Objective response (CR/PR) was observed in 32% (7/22) of patients. Eighteen patients (75%) underwent surgery after RCT. The median PFS for all patients (n = 24) was 6.5 months. The median overall survival for all patients (n = 24) was 16.3 months. Patients treated at DL 2 had a median overall survival of 29.5 months.
Neoadjuvant RCT with docetaxel 20 mg/m2 and oxaliplatin 50 mg/m2 was effective and showed a good toxicity profile. Future studies should consider the addition of targeted therapies to current neoadjuvant therapy regimens to further improve the outcome of patients with advanced cancer of the oesophagogastric junction.
Trial Registration
PMCID: PMC3579685  PMID: 23394629
Docetaxel; Neoadjuvant radiochemotherapy; Chemoradiotherapy; Oesophagogastric cancer oxaliplatin
3.  LICC: L-BLP25 in patients with colorectal carcinoma after curative resection of hepatic metastases--a randomized, placebo-controlled, multicenter, multinational, double-blinded phase II trial 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:144.
15-20% of all patients initially diagnosed with colorectal cancer develop metastatic disease and surgical resection remains the only potentially curative treatment available. Current 5-year survival following R0-resection of liver metastases is 28-39%, but recurrence eventually occurs in up to 70%. To date, adjuvant chemotherapy has not improved clinical outcomes significantly. The primary objective of the ongoing LICC trial (L-BLP25 In Colorectal Cancer) is to determine whether L-BLP25, an active cancer immunotherapy, extends recurrence-free survival (RFS) time over placebo in colorectal cancer patients following R0/R1 resection of hepatic metastases. L-BLP25 targets MUC1 glycoprotein, which is highly expressed in hepatic metastases from colorectal cancer. In a phase IIB trial, L-BLP25 has shown acceptable tolerability and a trend towards longer survival in patients with stage IIIB locoregional NSCLC.
This is a multinational, phase II, multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with a sample size of 159 patients from 20 centers in 3 countries. Patients with stage IV colorectal adenocarcinoma limited to liver metastases are included. Following curative-intent complete resection of the primary tumor and of all synchronous/metachronous metastases, eligible patients are randomized 2:1 to receive either L-BLP25 or placebo. Those allocated to L-BLP25 receive a single dose of 300 mg/m2 cyclophosphamide (CP) 3 days before first L-BLP25 dose, then primary treatment with s.c. L-BLP25 930 μg once weekly for 8 weeks, followed by s.c. L-BLP25 930 μg maintenance doses at 6-week (years 1&2) and 12-week (year 3) intervals unless recurrence occurs. In the control arm, CP is replaced by saline solution and L-BLP25 by placebo. Primary endpoint is the comparison of recurrence-free survival (RFS) time between groups. Secondary endpoints are overall survival (OS) time, safety, tolerability, RFS/OS in MUC-1 positive cancers. Exploratory immune response analyses are planned. The primary endpoint will be assessed in Q3 2016. Follow-up will end Q3 2017. Interim analyses are not planned.
The design and implementation of such a vaccination study in colorectal cancer is feasible. The study will provide recurrence-free and overall survival rates of groups in an unbiased fashion.
Trial Registration
EudraCT Number 2011-000218-20
PMCID: PMC3342924  PMID: 22494623
4.  Downregulation of organic cation transporters OCT1 (SLC22A1) and OCT3 (SLC22A3) in human hepatocellular carcinoma and their prognostic significance 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:109.
Organic cation transporters (OCT) are responsible for the uptake and intracellular inactivation of a broad spectrum of endogenous substrates and detoxification of xenobiotics and chemotherapeutics. The transporters became pharmaceutically interesting, because OCTs are determinants of the cytotoxicity of platin derivates and the transport activity has been shown to correlate with the sensitivity of tumors towards tyrosine kinase inhibitors. No data exist about the relevance of OCTs in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
OCT1 (SLC22A1) and OCT3 (SLC22A3) mRNA expression was measured in primary human HCC and corresponding non neoplastic tumor surrounding tissue (TST) by real time PCR (n = 53). Protein expression was determined by western blot analysis and immunofluorescence. Data were correlated with the clinicopathological parameters of HCCs.
Real time PCR showed a downregulation of SLC22A1 and SLC22A3 in HCC compared to TST (p ≤ 0.001). A low SLC22A1 expression was associated with a worse patient survival (p < 0.05). Downregulation was significantly associated with advanced HCC stages, indicated by a higher number of T3 tumors (p = 0.025) with a larger tumor diameter (p = 0.035), a worse differentiation (p = 0.001) and higher AFP-levels (p = 0.019). In accordance, SLC22A1 was less frequently downregulated in tumors with lower stages who underwent transarterial chemoembolization (p < 0.001) and liver transplantation (p = 0.001). Tumors with a low SLC22A1 expression (< median) showed a higher SLC22A3 expression compared to HCC with high SLC22A1 expression (p < 0.001). However, there was no significant difference in tumor characteristics according to the level of the SLC22A3 expression.
In the western blot analysis we found a different protein expression pattern in tumor samples with a more diffuse staining in the immunofluorescence suggesting that especially OCT1 is not functional in advanced HCC.
The downregulation of OCT1 is associated with tumor progression and a worse patient survival.
PMCID: PMC3323414  PMID: 22439694
OCT1; OCT3; SLC22A1; SLC22A3; Hepatocellular carcinoma; HCC
5.  Activation of the human immune system by chemotherapeutic or targeted agents combined with the oncolytic parvovirus H-1 
BMC Cancer  2011;11:464.
Parvovirus H-1 (H-1PV) infects and lyses human tumor cells including melanoma, hepatoma, gastric, colorectal, cervix and pancreatic cancers. We assessed whether the beneficial effects of chemotherapeutic agents or targeted agents could be combined with the oncolytic and immunostimmulatory properties of H-1PV.
Using human ex vivo models we evaluated the biological and immunological effects of H-1PV-induced tumor cell lysis alone or in combination with chemotherapeutic or targeted agents in human melanoma cells +/- characterized human cytotoxic T-cells (CTL) and HLA-A2-restricted dendritic cells (DC).
H-1PV-infected MZ7-Mel cells showed a clear reduction in cell viability of >50%, which appeared to occur primarily through apoptosis. This correlated with viral NS1 expression levels and was enhanced by combination with chemotherapeutic agents or sunitinib. Tumor cell preparations were phagocytosed by DC whose maturation was measured according to the treatment administered. Immature DC incubated with H-1PV-induced MZ7-Mel lysates significantly increased DC maturation compared with non-infected or necrotic MZ7-Mel cells. Tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin-6 release was clearly increased by DC incubated with H-1PV-induced SK29-Mel tumor cell lysates (TCL) and was also high with DC-CTL co-cultures incubated with H-1PV-induced TCL. Similarly, DC co-cultures with TCL incubated with H-1PV combined with cytotoxic agents or sunitinib enhanced DC maturation to a greater extent than cytotoxic agents or sunitinib alone. Again, these combinations increased pro-inflammatory responses in DC-CTL co-cultures compared with chemotherapy or sunitinib alone.
In our human models, chemotherapeutic or targeted agents did not only interfere with the pronounced immunomodulatory properties of H-1PV, but also reinforced drug-induced tumor cell killing. H-1PV combined with cisplatin, vincristine or sunitinib induced effective immunostimulation via a pronounced DC maturation, better cytokine release and cytotoxic T-cell activation compared with agents alone. Thus, the clinical assessment of H-1PV oncolytic tumor therapy not only alone but also in combination strategies is warranted.
PMCID: PMC3234202  PMID: 22029859
6.  Expression of chemokine receptor CXCR4 in esophageal squamous cell and adenocarcinoma 
BMC Cancer  2006;6:290.
Prognosis of esophageal cancer is poor despite curative surgery. The chemokine receptor CXCR4 has been proposed to distinctly contribute to tumor growth, dissemination and local immune escape in a limited number of malignancies. The aim of our study was to evaluate the role of CXCR4 in tumor spread of esophageal cancer with a differentiated view of the two predominant histologic types – squamous cell and adenocarcinoma.
Esophageal cancer tissue samples were obtained from 102 consecutive patients undergoing esophageal resection for cancer with curative intent. The LSAB+ System was used to detect the protein CXCR4. Tumor samples were classified into two groups based on the homogeneous staining intensity. A cut-off between CXCR4w (= weak expression) and CXCR4s (= strong expression) was set at 1.5 (grouped 0 – 1.5 versus 2.0 – 3). Long-term survival rates were calculated using life tables and the Kaplan-Meier method. Using the Cox's proportional hazards analysis, a model of survival prediction was established.
The overall expression rate for CXCR4 in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma was 94.1%. Subdividing these samples, CXCR4w was found in 54.9% and CXCR4s in 45.1%. In adenocarcinoma, an overall expression rate of 89.1% was detected with a weak intensitiy in 71.7% compared to strong staining in 29.3% (p = 0.066 squamous cell versus adenocarcinoma). The Cox's proportional hazards analysis identified the pM-category with a hazard ratio (HR) of 1.860 (95% CI: 1.014–3.414) (p = 0.045), the histologic tumor type (HR: 0.334; 95% CI: 0.180–0.618) (p = 0.0001) and the operative approach (transthoracic > transhiatal esophageal resection) (HR: 0.546; 95% CI: 0.324–0.920) (p = 0.023) as independent factors with a possible influence on the long-term prognosis in patients with esophageal carcinoma, whereas CXCR4 expression was statistically not significant (>0.05).
Expression of the chemokine receptor CXCR4 in esophageal cancer is of major relevance in both histologic entities – squamous cell and adenocarcinoma. Though with lack of statistical significance, strong CXCR4 expression revealed a poorer long-term prognosis following curative esophagectomy in both histologic subtypes. Thus, the exact biological functions of CXCR4 in terms of tumor dissemination of esophageal cancer is yet undetermined. Inhibition of esophageal cancer progression by CXCR4 antagonists might be a promising therapeutic option in the future.
PMCID: PMC1766934  PMID: 17176471
7.  Suppression of Mcl-1 via RNA interference sensitizes human hepatocellular carcinoma cells towards apoptosis induction 
BMC Cancer  2006;6:232.
Hepatocelluar carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most common cancers worldwide and a major cause of cancer-related mortality. HCC is highly resistant to currently available chemotherapeutic drugs. Defects in apoptosis signaling contribute to this resistance. Myeloid cell leukemia-1 (Mcl-1) is an anti-apoptotic member of the Bcl-2 protein family which interferes with mitochondrial activation. In a previous study we have shown that Mcl-1 is highly expressed in tissues of human HCC. In this study, we manipulated expression of the Mcl-1 protein in HCC cells by RNA interference and analyzed its impact on apoptosis sensitivity of HCC cells in vitro.
RNA interference was performed by transfecting siRNA to specifically knock down Mcl-1 expression in HCC cells. Mcl-1 expression was measured by quantitative real-time PCR and Western blot. Induction of apoptosis and caspase activity after treatment with chemotherapeutic drugs and different targeted therapies were measured by flow cytometry and fluorometric analysis, respectively.
Here we demonstrate that Mcl-1 expressing HCC cell lines show low sensitivity towards treatment with a panel of chemotherapeutic drugs. However, treatment with the anthracycline derivative epirubicin resulted in comparatively high apoptosis rates in HCC cells. Inhibition of the kinase PI3K significantly increased apoptosis induction by chemotherapy. RNA interference efficiently downregulated Mcl-1 expression in HCC cells. Mcl-1 downregulation sensitized HCC cells to different chemotherapeutic agents. Sensitization was accompanied by profound activation of caspase-3 and -9. In addition, Mcl-1 downregulation also increased apoptosis rates after treatment with PI3K inhibitors and, to a lower extent, after treatment with mTOR, Raf I and VEGF/PDGF kinase inhibitors. TRAIL-induced apoptosis did not markedly respond to Mcl-1 knockdown. Additionally, knockdown of Mcl-1 efficiently enhanced apoptosis sensitivity towards combined treatment modalities: Mcl-1 knockdown significantly augmented apoptosis sensitivity of HCC cells towards chemotherapy combined with PI3K inhibition.
Our data suggest that specific downregulation of Mcl-1 by RNA interference is a promising approach to sensitize HCC cells towards chemotherapy and molecularly targeted therapies.
PMCID: PMC1601962  PMID: 17014711
8.  Gemcitabine in combination with EGF-Receptor antibody (Cetuximab) as a treatment of cholangiocarcinoma: a case report 
BMC Cancer  2006;6:190.
Extensive disease of cholangiocarcinoma (CC) determines the overall outcome and limits curative resection. Despite chemotherapy, which has been introduced to improve the outcome of biliary tract malignancies, the benefit in survival is still marginal.
Case presentation
We report a 69-year-old patient with non-resectable CC showing hepatic metastasis and peritoneal carcinomatosis. Diagnosis was based on computed tomography, mini-laparoscopy and bioptic specimens. Histology revealed an adenocarcinoma of the biliary tract with expression of epithelial growth factor receptor. After informed consent the patient received experimental gemcitabine (1000 mg/m2) every other week and cetuximab (250 mg/m2) weekly for palliative chemotherapy. During the reported follow up (since time of first presentation) 20 cycles of chemotherapy were administered. Relevant chemotherapy-related toxicity was limited on gemcitabine-associated side effects. Predominantly, haematological toxicity (CTC, grade 3) and neutropenic fever (CTC, grade 3) promoted by catheter-related sepsis were observed. Cetuximab caused only mild skin toxicity (CTC, grade 1).
Chemotherapy led to a partial response (> 30% reduction, according to RECIST) of the target lesions and disappearance of the peritoneal carcinomatosis as shown by computed tomography. Partial response occurred after 17 weeks of treatment and remained stable during the entire course of chemotherapy for 9.7 months. In parallel, Ca 19-9 serum levels, which were elevated 5-fold at time of diagnosis, returned to normal after 16 weeks of treatment. The performance status stabilized and intravenous alimentation could be discontinued.
Our experience from one patient with CC suggests, that a combination of cytotoxic chemotherapy together with cetuximab may show promising efficacy in respect to survival and quality of life. Therefore cetuximab, as a component of palliative chemotherapy in biliary tract cancer, needs further evaluation in prospective randomized trials.
PMCID: PMC1564184  PMID: 16846514
9.  Irinotecan plus folinic acid/continuous 5-fluorouracil as simplified bimonthly FOLFIRI regimen for first-line therapy of metastatic colorectal cancer 
BMC Cancer  2004;4:38.
Combination therapy of irinotecan, folinic acid (FA) and 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) has been proven to be highly effective for the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer. However, in light of safety and efficacy concerns, the best combination regimen for first-line therapy still needs to be defined. The current study reports on the bimonthly FOLFIRI protocol consisting of irinotecan with continuous FA/5-FU in five German outpatient clinics, with emphasis on the safety and efficiency, quality of life, management of delayed diarrhea, and secondary resection of regressive liver metastases.
A total of 35 patients were treated for metastatic colorectal cancer. All patients received first-line treatment according to the FOLFIRI regimen, consisting of irinotecan (180 mg/m2), L-FA (200 mg/m2) and 5-FU bolus (400 mg/m2) on day 1, followed by a 46-h continuous infusion 5-FU (2400 mg/m2). One cycle contained three fortnightly administrations. Staging was performed after 2 cycles. Dosage was reduced at any time if toxicity NCI CTC grade III/IV was observed. Chemotherapy was administered only to diarrhea-free patients.
The FOLFIRI regimen was generally well tolerated. It was postponed for one-week in 51 of 415 applications (12.3%). Dose reduction was necessary in ten patients. Grade III/IV toxicity was rare, with diarrhea (14%), nausea/vomiting (12%), leucopenia (3%), neutropenia (9%) and mucositis (3%). The overall response rate was 31% (4 CR and 7 PR), with disease control in 74%. After primary chemotherapy, resection of liver metastases was achieved in three patients. In one patient, the CR was confirmed pathologically. Median progression-free and overall survival were seven and 17 months, respectively.
The FOLFIRI regimen proved to be safe and efficient. Outpatient treatment was well tolerated. Since downstaging was possible, combinations of irinotecan and continuous FA/5-FU should further be investigated in neoadjuvant protocols.
PMCID: PMC497044  PMID: 15265233
irinotecan; 5-fluorouracil; safety; metastatic colorectal cancer; neoadjuvant

Results 1-9 (9)