The evidence supporting the use of trastuzumab (T) in a metastatic setting comes from studies that included (almost) only patients who never received prior T. We investigated the effectiveness of T as first-line therapy for metastatic breast cancer (mBC) in women previously treated with T in the adjuvant setting.
Trastuzumab-based regimens for the adjuvant treatment of HER2-positive early breast cancer significantly prolonged overall survival (OS) and disease free survival (DFS) in large randomized trials, with sustained benefits at four-year follow-up. We assessed long-term survival estimates and predictors in a large cohort of Italian women with early breast cancer treated with trastuzumab in clinical practice. Through a record linkage between five regional healthcare databases, we identified women treated with trastuzumab for early breast cancer in Lombardy (2006-2009). DFS and OS were estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method, and independent predictors were assessed using proportional hazard models. 2046 women received trastuzumab in early breast cancer adjuvant setting. Overall, the proportion of patients surviving free of disease was 93.9% at one year, 85.8% at 2 years, 79.4% at 3 years, and 75.0% at 4 years. OS estimates were 98.7%, 95.4%, 91.5% and 89.4% at 1, 2, 3 and 4 years, respectively. Significant independent predictors of worse survival outcomes were age <40 or ?70 years compared to age 40-69 years, positive nodal status, radical breast surgery, combination therapy with paclitaxel, having at least one comorbidity (i.e. diabetes, cardiovascular disease), and a trastuzumab-based regimen lasting less than six months. Long term survival rates of women treated with trastuzumab for early breast cancer in clinical practice were consistent with estimates from clinical trials testing the drug in the adjuvant setting.
All-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) is the most important active metabolite of vitamin A controlling segmentation in the developing organism and the homeostasis of various tissues in the adult. ATRA as well as natural and synthetic derivatives, collectively known as retinoids, are also promising agents in the treatment and chemoprevention of different types of neoplasia including breast cancer. The major aim of the present article is to review the basic knowledge acquired on the anti-tumor activity of classic retinoids, like ATRA, in mammary tumors, focusing on the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms and the determinants of retinoid sensitivity/resistance. In the first part, an analysis of the large number of pre-clinical studies available is provided, stressing the point that this has resulted in a limited number of clinical trials. This is followed by an overview of the knowledge acquired on the role played by the retinoid nuclear receptors in the anti-tumor responses triggered by retinoids. The body of the article emphasizes the potential of ATRA and derivatives in modulating and in being influenced by some of the most relevant cellular pathways involved in the growth and progression of breast cancer. We review the studies centering on the cross-talk between retinoids and some of the growth-factor pathways which control the homeostasis of the mammary tumor cell. In addition, we consider the cross-talk with relevant intra-cellular second messenger pathways. The information provided lays the foundation for the development of rational and retinoid-based therapeutic strategies to be used for the management of breast cancer.
Mammary epithelial stem cells are fundamental to maintain tissue integrity. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are implicated in both treatment resistance and disease relapse, and the molecular bases of their malignant properties are still poorly understood. Here we show that both normal stem cells and CSCs of the breast are controlled by the prolyl-isomerase Pin1. Mechanistically, following interaction with Pin1, Notch1 and Notch4, key regulators of cell fate, escape from proteasomal degradation by their major ubiquitin-ligase Fbxw7?. Functionally, we show that Fbxw7? acts as an essential negative regulator of breast CSCs expansion by restraining Notch activity, but the establishment of a Notch/Pin1 active circuitry opposes this effect, thus promoting breast CSCs self-renewal, tumor growth and metastasis in vivo. In human breast cancers, despite Fbxw7? expression, high levels of Pin1 sustain Notch signaling, which correlates with poor prognosis. Suppression of Pin1 holds promise in reverting aggressive phenotypes, through CSC exhaustion as well as recovered drug sensitivity carrying relevant implications for therapy of breast cancers.
Concerns have been raised about the cardiac safety profile of trastuzumab for the adjuvant treatment of early stage breast cancer in clinical practice. We assessed trastuzumab-related cardiotoxicity and its predictors in a large cohort of Italian women.
SEMA6B is a member of the semaphorins axon-guidance family. A growing body of evidence has been accumulated describing the role of semaphorin molecules in cancer development and the involvement of SEMA6B in cancer progression has recently been proposed.
Triple negative breast cancers, which are defined by lack of expression of estrogen, progesterone, or HER2 receptors, represent approximately 15% of all breast cancers, although they account for a much higher proportional of breast cancer mortality. This is due both to their innate aggressive biological characteristics, but also to lack of effective therapies. Conventional chemotherapy is currently the only treatment option, thus there is a critical need to find new and effective targeted therapies in this disease. While investigation of agents such as poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors and EGFR inhibitors continues, results from recent clinical trials indicate that these therapies are not as active in sporadic triple negative breast cancers as initially hoped. It is important therefore to consider other emerging therapeutic agents. Mutation in p53 is found in the vast majority of triple negative breast cancers, and as such is a target of particular interest. Within this review, several agents with potential activity against aberrant p53 signaling have been considered, as a novel approach to finding an effective targeted therapy for this aggressive breast cancer subtype.
In order to support and improve the efficiency of clinical research in specific health area, the University of Pavia and the IRCCS Fondazione Salvatore Maugeri of Pavia (FSM) are developing and implementing an i2b2 based platform, designed to collect data coming from hospital clinical practice and scientific research. The work made in FSM is committed to support an affordable, less intrusive and more personalized care, increasing the quality of clinical practice as well as improving the scientific results. Such a aim depends on the application of information and communication technologies and the use of data. An integrated data warehouse has been implemented to support clinicians and researchers in two medical fields with a great impact on the population: oncology and cardiology. Furthermore the data warehouse approach has been tested with administrative information, allowing a financial view of clinical data.
The University of Pavia and the IRCCS Fondazione Salvatore Maugeri of Pavia (FSM), has recently started an IT initiative to support clinical research in oncology, called ONCO-i2b2. ONCO-i2b2, funded by the Lombardia region, grounds on the software developed by the Informatics for Integrating Biology and the Bedside (i2b2) NIH project. Using i2b2 and new software modules purposely designed, data coming from multiple sources are integrated and jointly queried. The core of the integration process stands in retrieving and merging data from the biobank management software and from the FSM hospital information system. The integration process is based on a ontology of the problem domain and on open-source software integration modules. A Natural Language Processing module has been implemented, too. This module automatically extracts clinical information of oncology patients from unstructured medical records. The system currently manages more than two thousands patients and will be further implemented and improved in the next two years.
Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer refractory to current therapies, the incidence of which is expected to rise in the next decades. Exposure to asbestos is a well known risk factor, as InternationalAgency for Research and Cancer (IARC) classified this compound as group I (carcinogenic to humans). The lack of tumor biomarkers for diagnosis and medical survey plays a fundamental role for the development of a universally accepted therapeutic approach. In this review we evaluated the mechanism of asbestos carcinogenesis by analyzing activated oncogenes, genetic predisposition, and SV40 infection as cofactors. Therefore, interest has focused on microRNAs, 19-25 nucleotide-long single-stranded RNAs that negatively regulate gene expression by modulating translational efficiency of target genes involved in numerous cellular processes including development, differentiation, proliferation, apoptosis, and stress response. The analysis revealed a differential expression of miRNAs between mesothelioma and mesothelial cells, suggesting their potential role as oncogenes or tumor suppressor genes in mesothelioma oncogenesis. We have also investigated the role of polymorphism in the etiology and pathogenesis of mesothelioma, in order to evaluate the association between disease linked to asbestos exposure andgenetic variability. The identification of dysregulated miRNAs or frequent genetic polymorphisms as potential diagnostic biomarkers or as prognostic factors for malignant mesothelioma could facilitate the surveillance procedure of subjects exposed to asbestos.
Aromatase inhibitors, such as anastrozole, are established in the treatment of hormone-dependent breast cancer. However, approximately 20% of patients treated with anastrozole do not respond, and it remains impossible to accurately predict sensitivity. Thus, novel markers to predict response are required. The K303R estrogen receptor (ER)? mutation confers resistance to tamoxifen treatment. Moreover, K303R-expressing MCF-7 cells, transfected with an aromatase expression vector and stimulated with androstenedione (an aromatase substrate), were found to be resistant to the inhibitory effect of anastrozole. The aim of this study was to verify whether the presence of the K303R ER? mutation is associated with response to 3-month neoadjuvant treatment with anastrozole (Arimidex) in a cohort of post-menopausal breast cancer patients. Of 37 patients with ER(+) tumors, 19 showed a clinical response to anastrozole and 18 were resistant. Biopsies were obtained from tumors responding to the therapy or from non-responding tumors. None carried the K303R ER? mutation. To our knowledge, this is the first study to search for K303R ER? mutations in tumors clinically responsive or resistant to an aromatase inhibitor. Lack of the mutation leads us to believe that this mutation has in vivo biological significance in only a subset of breast cancers.
Treatment of breast cancer (BC) has changed over the last decade with the advent of targeted therapies. Whereas traditional chemotherapy was directed toward all rapidly dividing cells (cancerous or not), several new anti-cancer drugs are mainly tailored to specific genetic pathways of cancer cells. Ideally, the goal of these new therapies is to improve the management of cancer with a specific targeting of the malignant cell and fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy. Due to the initial success of this approach, an increasing number of targeted drugs entered into clinical development. However, unanticipated side effects of the new drugs, such as cardiotoxicity and heart failure, emerged from several clinical trials. The mechanisms of cardiotoxicity due to traditional chemotherapy and the one due to new drugs seem to be inherently different. In the case of BC, available targeted therapies are probably associated with the abrogation of normal molecular pathways involved in cardiomyocytes and endothelial cells survival/proliferation. The cardiac safety profile of these new drugs asks for a careful patient monitoring and follow up. Herein we will review the cardiotoxicity of BC patients receiving antiERBB2 treatment (Trastuzumab, Lapatinib), VEGF inhibitors (Bevacizumab) and tirosin-kinase inhibitors (Sorafenib, Sunitinib). We will discuss the molecular mechanisms that underlie the risk of cardiotoxicity, and we will examine the molecular tools useful for prediction of heart failure and for identification of subgroups of BC patients more susceptible to cardiac side effects induced by targeted therapies. Attention will be paid in particular to ERBB2 gene and its polymorphisms, as well as to the possible genetic risk stratification of BC patients. Finally, we will discuss the possible clinical strategies to prevent and minimizing the cardiotoxicity of targeted therapies in BC patients, focusing in particular on new drugs combination and on the emerging role of a tight partnership between cardiologists and oncologists.
Aromatase inhibition (AI) is the most effective endocrine treatment for breast cancer in post-menopausal patients, but a percentage of hormone receptor-positive cancers do not benefit from such therapy: for example, about 20% of patients treated with anastrozole do not respond and it is still impossible to accurately predict sensitivity. Our main goal was to identify a robust expression signature predictive of response to neoadjuvant treatment with anastrozole in patients with ER+ breast cancer. At the same time, we addressed the question of delineating treatment effects and possible mechanisms of intrinsic resistance occurring in non-responder patients. We analyzed the transcriptome of 17 tru-cut biopsies before treatment and 13 matched surgical samples after 3 months treatment with anastrozole taken from ER+ breast tumors. Molecular profiles were related to clinical response data. Treatment with anastrozole was associated with a decreased expression of genes relating to cell proliferation and an increased expression of genes relating to inflammatory processes. There was also an enrichment of induction of T-cell anergy, positive regulation of androgen signalling, synaptic transmission and vesicle trafficking in non-responders, and of cell cycle inhibition and induction of immune response in responders. We identified an expression signature of 77 probes (54 genes) that predicted response in 100% of our cases. Five of them were able to accurately predict response on an independent dataset (P = 0.0056) of 52 ER+ breast cancers treated with letrozole. Ten fixed independent samples from the anastrozole study were also used for RT-qPCR validations. This study suggests that a relative small number of genes analysed in a pre-treatment biopsy may identify patients likely to respond to AI neoadjuvant treatment. This may have practical utility translatable to the clinics. Furthermore, it delineates novel mechanisms of intrinsic resistance to AI therapy that could be further investigated in order to explore circumventing treatments.
Long-term survival of cancer patients can be worsened by cardiovascular morbidity and mortality due to anticancer treatments based on cardiotoxic or antiangiogenic regimens. Growing scientific evidences support a role for circulating endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) both in cancer pathogenesis and in cardiovascular diseases. High frequency of circulating EPCs seems to play a role in cancer growth and dissemination by favouring tumor angiogenesis and estabilishment of sites of metastasis. On the other hand, high level of circulating EPCs seems to be associated with a lower risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and with improved vascular regeneration after cardiovascular damage. Here, the possibile opposing roles of circulating EPCs in cancer patients suffering from therapy related-cardiovascular diseases are discussed, under the light of the potential modulation of their levels for therapeutic purposes. This can become a relevant issue in the field of cardioncology, the discipline that deals with the managing and treatment of cancer patients suffering from concomitant cardiovascular diseases or who are exposed to an increased risk to develop therapy related-cardiovascular complications.
Aromatase inhibitors (AIs), such as anastrozole, are established in the treatment of hormone-dependent breast cancer. However, ?20% of patients with hormone receptor-positive breast tumors treated with anastrozole do not respond and it remains impossible to accurately predict sensitivity. Since polymorphisms in the aromatase gene may influence the response to inhibitory drugs, we evaluated the presence of rs6493497 and rs7176005 polymorphisms (mapping in the 5-flanking region of the CYP19A1 gene coding for the aromatase protein) in a cohort of 37 patients with postmenopausal breast cancer who received three-month neoadjuvant treatment with anastrozole. We then investigated any association of the polymorphisms with changes in aromatase mRNA expression change and/or response to treatment. We also analyzed five miRNAs computationally predicted to target aromatase, to observe any association between their expression and sensitivity to anastrozole. Three samples carried the two polymorphisms and the remaining samples were wild-type for both, however, no association with response or with aromatase mRNA basal expression level or expression difference after therapy was observed. Polymorphic samples that were resistant to anastrozole showed no change or decrease in aromatase expression following AI treatment, whereas an increase in expression was observed for the polymorphic responsive samples. No statistically significant correlation was observed between miRNA and aromatase mRNA expression, or with response to anastrozole neoadjuvant treatment. These data indicate that the polymorphisms analyzed are not involved in aromatase activity and that other epigenetic mechanisms may regulate aromatase protein expression.
The ONCO-i2b2 platform is a bioinformatics tool designed to integrate clinical and research data and support translational research in oncology. It is implemented by the University of Pavia and the IRCCS Fondazione Maugeri hospital (FSM), and grounded on the software developed by the Informatics for Integrating Biology and the Bedside (i2b2) research center. I2b2 has delivered an open source suite based on a data warehouse, which is efficiently interrogated to find sets of interesting patients through a query tool interface.
Adipose tissue is a reservoir of Mesenchymal Stem Cells (Adipose-derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells, ASCs), endowed with regenerative properties. Fat graft was proposed for breast reconstruction in post-surgery cancer patients achieving good aesthetic results and tissues regeneration. However, recent findings highlight a potential tumorigenic role that ASCs may have in cancer recurrence, raising some concerns about their safety in clinical application. To address this issue, we established a model where autologous ASCs were combined with primary normal or cancer cells from breast of human donors, in order to evaluate potential effects of their interactions, in vitro and in vivo. Surprisingly, we found that ASCs are not tumorigenic per sè, as they are not able to induce a neoplastic transformation of normal mammary cells, however they could exhacerbate tumorigenic behaviour of c-Met-expressing breast cancer cells, creating an inflammatory microenvironment which sustained tumor growth and angiogenesis. Pharmacological c-Met inhibition showed that a HGF/c-Met crosstalk between ASCs and breast cancer cells enhanced tumor cells migration, acquiring a metastatic signature, and sustained tumor self-renewal. The master role of HGF/c-Met pathway in cancer recurrence was further confirmed by c-Met immunostaining in primary breast cancer from human donors, revealing a strong positivity in patients displaying a recurrent pathology after fat grafts and a weak/moderate staining in patients without signs of recurrence. Altogether our findings, for the first time, suggest c-Met expression, as predictive to evaluate risk of cancer recurrence after autologous fat graft in post-surgery breast cancer patients, increasing the safety of fat graft in clinical application.
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