Emanuele Marra

Università di Pisa, Pisa, Tuscany, Italy

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Publications (15)52.21 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Client-owned pet dogs represent exceptional translational models for advancement of Cancer Research, as they reflects the complex heterogeneity observed in human cancer. We have recently shown that a genetic vaccine targeting dog telomerase (dTERT) and based on Ad/DNA-EGT technology can induce strong cell-mediated immune responses against this tumor antigen and increase overall survival of dogs affected by B-cell lymphosarcoma (LSA) in comparison with historical controls when combined with COP chemotherapy regimen. Here, we have conducted a double arm clinical trial with an extended number of LSA patients, measured the antigen-specific immune response and evaluated potential toxic effects of the immunotherapy along with a follow up of patients survival for three years and half. The immune response was measured by ELISPOT. The expression of dTERT was quantified by quantitative PCR. Changes in hematological parameters, local/systemic toxicity or organic dysfunction and fever were monitored over time during the treatment. dTERT-specific cell mediated immune responses were induced in almost all treated animals. No adverse effects were observed in any dog patient that underwent treatment. The overall survival time of vaccine/COP treated dogs was significantly increased over the COP-only treated cohort (>76.1 vs 29.3 weeks, respectively, p<0.0001). There was a significant association between dTERT expression levels in LSA cells and overall survival (OS) among vaccinated patients. In conclusion, Ad/DNA-EGT-based cancer vaccine against dTERT in combination with COP chemotherapy is safe and significantly prolongs the survival of LSA canine patients. These data confirm the therapeutic efficacy of dTERT vaccine and support the evaluation of this approach for other cancer types as well as the translation of this approach to human clinical trials.
    Human gene therapy 07/2013; · 4.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Treatment of advanced melanoma has been improved with the advent of the BRAF inhibitors. However, a limitation to such treatment is the occurrence of resistance. Several mechanisms have been identified to be responsible for the development of resistance, either MEK-dependent or MEK-independent. In order to overcome resistance due to reactivation of MEK signaling, MEK inhibitors are being clinically developed with promising results. However, also in this case resistance inevitably occurs. It has been recently reported that ErbB3, a member of the EGFR receptor family, may be involved in the establishment of drug resistance. Three melanoma cell lines were tested: LOX IMVI (BRAF V600E), MST-L (BRAF V600R) and WM266 (BRAF V600D). Phosphorylation of Receptor Tyrosine Kinases (RTKs) was assessed by an RTK array. Western blot analysis was performed on total protein extracts using anti-ErbB3, anti-AKT and anti-ERK 1/2 antibodies. The expression of neuregulin after vemurafenib treatment was assessed by Real Time PCR and Western blotting. The growth inhibitory effects of vemurafenib, GSK1120212b and/or anti-ErbB3 mAbs were evaluated by in vitro colony formation assays. In the present study we demonstrate that ErbB3 is the main RTK undergoing rapidly hyperphosphorylation upon either treatment with a BRAF inhibitor or with a MEK inhibitor in a panel of melanoma cell lines harboring a variety of V600BRAF mutations and that this results in a strong activation of phospho-AKT. Importantly, ErbB3 activation is fully abrogated by the simultaneous use of anti-ErbB3 monoclonal antibodies, which are also shown to potently synergize with BRAF inhibitors in the inactivation of both AKT and ERK pathways and in the inhibition of melanoma cell growth. We show that upregulation of phospho-ErbB3 is due to an autocrine loop involving increased transcription and production of neuregulin by melanoma cells. On the basis of these results, we propose that initial co-treatment with BRAF and/or MEK inhibitors and anti-ErbB3 antibodies should be pursued as a strategy to reduce the ErbB3-dependent feedback survival mechanism and enhance duration of clinical response.
    Journal of Translational Medicine 07/2013; 11(1):180. · 3.46 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Personalized therapy of advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has been improved by the introduction of EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), gefitinib and erlotinib. EGFR TKIs induce dramatic objective responses and increase survival in patients bearing sensitizing mutations in the EGFR intracytoplasmic tyrosine kinase domain. However, virtually all patients develop resistance, and this is responsible for disease relapse. Hence several efforts are being undertaken to understand the mechanisms of resistance in order to develop combination treatments capable to sensitize resistant cells to EGFR TKIs. Recent studies have suggested that upregulation of another member of the EGFR receptor family, namely ErbB3 is involved in drug resistance, through increased phosphorylation of its intracytoplasmic domain and activation of PI3K/AKT signaling. In this paper we first show, by using a set of malignant pleural effusion derived cell cultures (MPEDCC) from patients with lung adenocarcinoma, that surface ErbB3 expression correlates with increased AKT phosphorylation. Antibodies against ErbB3, namely A3, which we previously demonstrated to induce receptor internalization and degradation, inhibit growth and induce apoptosis only in cells overexpressing surface ErbB3. Furthermore, combination of anti-ErbB3 antibodies with EGFR TKIs synergistically affect cell proliferation in vitro, cause cell cycle arrest, up-regulate p21 expression and inhibit tumor growth in mouse xenografts. Importantly, potentiation of gefitinib by anti-ErbB3 antibodies occurs both in de novo and in ab initio resistant cells. Anti-ErbB3 mAbs strongly synergize also with the dual EGFR and HER2 inhibitor lapatinib. Our results suggest that combination treatment with EGFR TKI and antibodies against ErbB3 should be a promising approach to pursue in the clinic.
    Oncotarget 07/2013; · 6.64 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Dietary agents are receiving much attention for the chemoprevention of cancer. While curcumin is known to influence several pathways and affect tumor growth in vivo, carnitin and its congeners play a variety of important metabolic functions: are involved in the oxydation of long-chain fatty acids, regulate acyl-CoA levels and influence protein activity and stability by modifying the extent of protein acetylation. In this study we evaluated the efficacy of carnitines in the prevention of cancer development using the 1,2,-dimethylidrazine (DMH)-induced colon carcinogenesis model. We also assessed whether their combination was able to give rise to increased protection from cancer development. Mice treated with DMH were dosed orally with curcumin and/or carnitine and acylcarnitines for twenty weeks. At the end of the treatment colon samples were collected, and scored for multiple ACF and adenomas. We observed that carnitine and acyl-carnitines had same, if not higher, efficacy than curcumin alone in inhibiting the formation of neoplastic lesions induced by DMH treatment. Interestingly, the combination of curcumin and acetyl-L-carnitine was able to fully inhibit the development of advanced adenoma lesions. Our data unveil the antitumor effects of carnitines and warrant additional studies to further support the adoption of carnitines as cancer chemopreventative agents. J. Cell. Biochem. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Journal of Cellular Biochemistry 02/2013; · 3.06 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract. – Current Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COH) for Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ART) pursues three main objectives: hypophyseal activity suppression, multiple follicle growth stimulation, and ovulation induction. By suppressing hypophyseal activity, it is possible to prevent untimely LH surge and allow the appropriate development of the leading follicle. The classical GnRH agonist long protocol is the most widely used in COH for ART. However, an alternative regimen based on GnRH antagonist has been recently introduced in clinical practice. As competitive antagonists, these drugs display an immediate and quickly reversible effect and they avoid hormonal withdrawal side effects. Moreover, this protocol shows undeniable advantages, including the shorter duration of the treatment, the lower amount of gonadotropin required, the shorter hormonal and ultrasound monitoring of patients, milder physical and emotional stress, and a lower risk of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). The use of GnRH antagonists was traditionally restricted to selected patients, as “poor responders” and women at high-risk of developing OHSS such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and patients who had previously experienced OHSS. These findings could prompt a trend to change from the standard agonist protocol to the antagonist protocol in all categories of patients.This review provides a comprehensive overview of the use of GnRH antagonist protocols applied both to IVF techniques and to IUI procedures in the Italian experience.
    European review for medical and pharmacological sciences 01/2013; 17:853-873. · 1.09 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The aim of this study was to assess the effects of three weeks of daily colostrum cream on vaginal cytology and local symptoms related to menopause. Genito-urinary symptoms and cell morphology were analyzed at time 0 (T0) and after three weeks (16 +/- days since the end of treatment) at time 1 (T1). Dyspareunia, vaginal dryness, and maturation index (MI) reached a statistically significant difference between T0 and T1. The results proved to be an alternative treatment for vaginal distress caused by lack of hormones in patients in which hormonal treatment is contraindicated.
    Clinical and experimental obstetrics & gynecology 01/2013; 40(2):219-21. · 0.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mice harbouring a humanized liver represent a powerful tool for translating preclinical studies of drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics into humans, as well as the exploitation of basic studies on liver pathophysiology including hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Human adult stem cells injected into immunocompetent mice at preimmune stages of development, generate chimeric animals harbouring a liver with relatively discrete foci of human hepatocyte-like cells. In this study, we have evaluated whether similar protocol of xenotransplantation in the presence of selective pressure might lead to a higher human-into-mouse liver repopulation, leading to a relevant improvement of liver function. Human CD34(+)/CD133(+) cells were microinjected into blastocysts from genetically-modified mice committed to develop a lethal hepatopathy, due to the absence of the enzyme fumarylacetoacetate hydrolase (FAH). Following xenotransplantation, mouse survival was followed over time and histochemical evidence of liver chimerism was assessed. The survival expectancy of seven out of 21 intrablastocyst xenotransplanted FAH knockout (Fah-/-) mice was significantly higher as compared with non-xenotransplanted mice. Several nodules of human hepatocyte-like cells were revealed by immunohistochemistry in the liver of rescued mice. Our data positively support the hypothesis that preimmune xenotransplantation of human stem cells into immunocompetent mice harbouring a lethal hepatic disease might lead to a functionally relevant human-mouse liver chimerism and marks a significant advancement towards the establishment of a novel translational preclinical model for liver diseases.
    Laboratory Animals 10/2012; 46(4):280-6. · 1.26 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In the last 3-5 years strong evidence has been gathered demonstrating ErbB3 as a key node for the progression of several cancer types. From the mechanistic standpoint the intracellular region of this receptor is rich of tyrosine residues that, upon phosphorylation, become high affinity binding sites for PI3K and other proteins involved in signal transduction. The involvement of ErbB3 occurs at different levels, most likely as a consequence of its promiscuity in the interaction with other RTKs of the same or other families. Several efforts are therefore being put in the development of antibodies that target this receptor either singly or in combination with other synergizing receptors. Some of these compounds have already entered clinical development. Although clinical proof-of-concept has not yet been achieved, this is likely to occur soon and will further accelerate the inclusion of anti-ErbB3 monoclonals in the repertoire of anticancer agents for more effective combination therapy. In this paper we review the wealth of anti-ErbB3 antibodies under development and compare their properties and potential to become marketed drugs.
    Oncotarget 08/2012; 3(8):744-58. · 6.64 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The kinesin spindle protein (KSP), a member of the kinesin superfamily of microtubule-based motors, plays a critical role in mitosis as it mediates centrosome separation and bipolar spindle assembly and maintenance. Inhibition of KSP function leads to cell cycle arrest at mitosis with the formation of monoastral microtubule arrays, and ultimately, to cell death. Several KSP inhibitors are currently being studied in clinical trials and provide new opportunities for the development of novel anticancer therapeutics. RNA interference (RNAi) may represent a powerful strategy to interfere with key molecular pathways involved in cancer. In this study, we have established an efficient method for intratumoral delivery of siRNA. We evaluated short interfering RNA (siRNA) duplexes targeting luciferase as surrogate marker or KSP sequence. To examine the potential feasibility of RNAi therapy, the siRNA was transfected into pre-established lesions by means of intratumor electro-transfer of RNA therapeutics (IERT). This technology allowed cell permeation of the nucleic acids and to efficiently knock down gene expression, albeit transiently. The KSP-specific siRNA drastically reduced outgrowth of subcutaneous melanoma and ovarian cancer lesions. Our results show that intratumoral electro-transfer of siRNA is feasible and KSP-specific siRNA may provide a novel strategy for therapeutic intervention. J. Cell. Physiol. 228: 58-64, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Journal of Cellular Physiology 05/2012; 228(1):58-64. · 4.22 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Members of the ErbB receptor family are targets of a growing numbers of small molecules and monoclonal antibodies inhibitors currently under development for the treatment of cancer. Although historical efforts have been directed against ErbB1 (EGFR) and ErbB2 (HER2/neu), emerging evidences have pointed to ErbB3 as a key node in the activation of proliferation/survival pathways from the ErbB receptor family and have fueled enthusiasm toward the clinical development of anti-ErbB3 agents. In this study, we have evaluated the potential therapeutic efficacy of a set of three recently generated anti-human ErbB3 monoclonals, A2, A3 and A4, in human primary melanoma cells. We show that in melanoma cells expressing ErbB1, ErbB3 and ErbB4 but not ErbB2 receptor ligands activate the PI3K/AKT pathway, and this leads to increased cell proliferation and migration. While antibodies A3 and A4 are able to potently inhibit ligand-induced signaling, proliferation and migration, antibody A2 is unable to exert this effect. In attempt to understand the mechanism of action and the basis of this different behavior, we demonstrate, through a series of combined approaches, that antibody efficacy strongly correlates with antibody-induced receptor internalization, degradation and inhibition of receptor recycling to the cell surface. Finally, fine epitope mapping studies through a peptide array show that inhibiting vs. non-inhibiting antibodies have a dramatically different mode of binding to the to the receptor extracellular domain. Our study confirms the key role of ErbB3 and points to exploitation of novel combination therapies for treatment of malignant melanoma.
    Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.) 04/2012; 11(7):1455-67. · 5.24 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The role of the ErbB3 receptor in signal transduction is to augment the signaling repertoire of active heterodimeric ErbB receptor complexes through activating the PI3K/AKT pathway, which in turn promotes survival and proliferation. ErbB3 has recently been proposed to be involved in acquired resistance to tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), and is therefore a promising new drug cancer target. Since ErbB3 is a kinase defective receptor, it cannot be targeted by small molecule inhibitors, whereas monoclonal antibodies may offer a viable strategy for pharmacological intervention. In this study, we have utilized DNA electroporation (DNA-EP) to generate a set of novel hybridomas directed against human ErbB3, which have been characterized for their biochemical and functional properties and selected for their ability to negatively regulate the ErbB3-mediated signaling pathway. In vitro, the anti-ErbB3 antibodies modulate the growth rate of cancer cells of different origins. In vivo they show antitumoral properties in a xenograft model of human pancreatic tumor and in the ErbB2-driven carcinogenesis genetically engineered mouse model (GEMM) for mammary tumor, the BALB/neuT. Our data confirm that downregulating the ErbB3-mediated signals with the use of anti-ErbB3 monoclonal antibodies is both feasible and relevant for therapeutic purposes and provides new opportunities for novel anti-ErbB3 combinatory strategies for cancer treatment.
    Journal of Cellular Physiology 12/2011; 227(10):3381-8. · 4.22 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) are emerging as promising therapeutic tools. However, the widespread clinical application of such molecules as modulators of gene expression is still dependent on several aspects that limit their bioavailability. One of the most promising strategies to overcome the barriers faced by gene silencing molecules involves the use of lipid-based nanoparticles (LNPs) and viral vectors, such as adenoviruses (Ads). The primary obstacle for translating gene silencing technology from an effective research tool into a feasible therapeutic strategy remains its efficient delivery to the targeted cell type in vivo. In this study, we tested the capability of LNPs and Ad to transduce and treat locally tumors in vivo. Efficient knockdown of a surrogate reporter (luciferase) and therapeutic target genes such as the kinesin spindle protein (KIF11) and polo-like kinase 1 were observed. Most importantly, this activity led to a cell cycle block as a consequence and slowed down tumor progression in tumor-bearing animals. Our data indicate that it is possible to achieve tumor transduction with si/short hairpin RNAs and further improve the delivery strategy that likely in the future will lead to the ideal non-viral particle for targeted cancer gene silencing.
    Gene therapy 03/2011; 18(7):727-33. · 4.75 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Malignant pleural effusions (MPEs) could represent an excellent source to culture a wide variety of cancer cells from different donors. In this study, we set up culture conditions for cancer cells deriving from MPEs of several patients affected by the most frequent form of lung cancer, namely the subset of non small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) classified as Lung Adenocarcinomas (AdenoCa) which account for approximately 40% of lung cancer cases. AdenoCa malignant pleural effusions gave rise to in vitro cultures both in adherent and/or in spheroid conditions in almost all cases analyzed. We characterized in greater detail two samples which showed the most efficient propagation in vitro. In these samples we also compared gene profiles of spheroid vs adherent cultures and identified a set of differentially expressed genes. Finally we achieved efficient tumor engraftment in recipient NOD/SCID mice, also upon inoculation of small number of cells, thus suggesting indirectly the presence of tumor initiating cells.
    PLoS ONE 01/2011; 6(7):e21320. · 3.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Prostate stem cell antigen (PSCA) is a glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchored protein expressed not only in prostate but also in pancreas and bladder cancer as shown by immunohistochemistry and mRNA analysis. It has been targeted by monoclonal antibodies in preclinical animal models and more recently in a clinical trial in prostate cancer patients. The biological role played in tumor growth is presently unknown. In this report we have characterized the contribution of PSCA expression to tumor growth. A bladder cell line was engineered to express a doxycycline (dox) regulated shRNA against PSCA. To shed light on the PSCA biological role in tumor growth, microarray analysis was carried out as a function of PSCA expression. Expression of gene set of interest was further analyzed by qPCR RESULTS: Down regulation of the PSCA expression was associated with reduced cell proliferation in vitro and in vivo. Mice bearing subcutaneous tumors showed a reduced tumor growth upon treatment with dox, which effectively induced shRNA against PSCA as revealed by GFP expression. Pathway analysis of deregulated genes suggests a statistical significant association between PSCA downregulation and activation of genes downstream of the IFNalpha/beta receptor. These experiments established for the first time a correlation between the level of PSCA expression and tumor growth and suggest a role of PSCA in counteracting the natural immune response.
    BMC Cancer 04/2010; 10:129. · 3.33 Impact Factor
  • Ejc Supplements - EJC SUPPL. 01/2010; 8(7):73-73.

Publication Stats

74 Citations
52.21 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2013
    • Università di Pisa
      Pisa, Tuscany, Italy
  • 2011–2013
    • Sapienza University of Rome
      • Department of Clinical and Molecular Medicine
      Roma, Latium, Italy
    • Takis
      Roma, Latium, Italy
  • 2012
    • BIOGEM SCARL
      Ariano di Puglia, Campania, Italy