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Electrotransfer of plasmid DNA radiosensitizes B16F10 tumors through activation of immune response
Monika Savarin, Urška Kamenšek, Maja Čemažar, Richard Heller, Gregor Serša, 2017, original scientific article

Abstract: Tumor irradiation combined with adjuvant treatments, either vascular targeted or immunomodulatory, is under intense investigation. Gene electrotransfer of therapeutic genes is one of these approaches. The aim of this study was to determine, whether gene electrotransfer of plasmid encoding shRNA for silencing endoglin, with vascular targeted effectiveness, can radiosensitize melanoma B16F10 tumors. Materials and methods. The murine melanoma B16F10 tumors, growing on the back of C57Bl/6 mice, were treated by triple gene electrotransfer and irradiation. The antitumor effect was evaluated by determination of tumor growth delay and proportion of tumor free mice. Furthermore, histological analysis of tumors (necrosis, apoptosis, proliferation, vascularization, presence of hypoxia and infiltration of immune cells,) was used to evaluate the therapeutic mechanisms. Results. Gene electrotransfer of plasmid silencing endoglin predominantly indicated vascular targeted effects of the therapy, since significant tumor growth delay and 44% of tumor free mice were obtained. In addition, irradiation had minor effects on radioresistant melanoma, with 11% of mice tumor free. The combined treatment resulted in excellent effectiveness with 88% of mice tumor free, with more than half resistant to secondary tumor challenge, which was observed also with the plasmid devoid of the therapeutic gene. Histological analysis of tumors in the combined treatment group, demonstrated similar mode of action of the gene electrotransfer of plasmid encoding shRNA for silencing endoglin and devoid of it, both through the induction of an immune response. Conclusions. The results of this study indicate that irradiation can in radioresistant melanoma tumors, by release of tumor associated antigens, serve as activator of the immune response, besides directly affecting tumor cells and vasculature. The primed antitumor immune response can be further boosted by gene electrotransfer of plasmid, regardless of presence of the therapeutic gene, which was confirmed by the high radiosensitization, resulting in prolonged tumor growth delay and 89% of tumor free mice that were up to 63% resistant to secondary challenge of tumor. In addition, gene electrotransfer of therapeutic plasmid for silencing endoglin has also a direct effect on tumor vasculature and tumors cells; however in combination with radiotherapy this effect was masked by pronounced immune response.
Keywords: gene therapy, electrotransfer, plasmid, irradiation, immune response, melanoma
Published in DiRROS: 24.05.2024; Views: 85; Downloads: 37
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Safety and efficacy of IL-12 plasmid DNA transfection into pig skin : supportive data for human clinical trials on gene therapy and vaccination
Urša Lampreht Tratar, Tanja Jesenko, Maša Omerzel, Alenka Seliškar, Urban Stupan, Mihajlo Djokić, Jerneja Sredenšek, Blaž Trotovšek, Gregor Serša, Maja Čemažar, 2024, original scientific article

Abstract: Gene electrotransfer (GET) of plasmids encoding interleukin 12 (IL-12) has already been used for the treatment of various types of tumors in human oncology and as an adjuvant in DNA vaccines. In recent years, we have developed a plasmid encoding human IL-12 (phIL12) that is currently in a phase I clinical study. The aim was to confirm the results of a non-clinical study in mice on pharmacokinetic characteristics and safety in a porcine model that better resembled human skin. The GET of phIL12 in the skin was performed on nine pigs using different concentrations of plasmid phIL12 and invasive (needle) or noninvasive (plate) types of electrodes. The results of our study demonstrate that the GET of phIL-12 with needle electrodes induced the highest expression of IL-12 at the protein level on day 7 after the procedure. The plasmid was distributed to all tested organs; however, its amount decreased over time and was at a minimum 28 days after GET. Based on plasmid copy number and expression results, together with blood analysis, we showed that IL-12 GET is safe in a porcine animal model. Furthermore, we demonstrated that pigs are a valuable model for human gene therapy safety studies.
Keywords: interleukin 12, gene electrotransfer, immunotherapy
Published in DiRROS: 18.04.2024; Views: 129; Downloads: 61
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Gene immunotherapy of colon carcinoma with IL-2 and IL-12 using gene electrotransfer
Tilen Komel, Maša Omerzel, Urška Kamenšek, Katarina Žnidar, Urša Lampreht Tratar, Simona Kranjc Brezar, Klemen Dolinar, Sergej Pirkmajer, Gregor Serša, Maja Čemažar, 2023, original scientific article

Abstract: Gene immunotherapy has become an important approach in the treatment of cancer. One example is the introduction of genes encoding immunostimulatory cytokines, such as interleukin 2 and interleukin 12, which stimulate immune cells in tumours. The aim of our study was to determine the effects of gene electrotransfer of plasmids encoding interleukin 2 and interleukin 12 individually and in combination in the CT26 murine colon carcinoma cell line in mice. In the in vitro experiment, the pulse protocol that resulted in the highest expression of IL-2 and IL-12 mRNA and proteins was used for the in vivo part. In vivo, tumour growth delay and also complete response were observed in the group treated with the plasmid combination. Compared to the control group, the highest levels of various immunostimulatory cytokines and increased immune infiltration were observed in the combination group. Long-term anti-tumour immunity was observed in the combination group after tumour re-challenge. In conclusion, our combination therapy efficiently eradicated CT26 colon carcinoma in mice and also generated strong anti-tumour immune memory.
Keywords: colon carcinoma, gene electrotransfer, gene immunotherapy
Published in DiRROS: 21.03.2024; Views: 174; Downloads: 77
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Numerical modeling in electroporation-based biomedical applications
Nataša Pavšelj, Damijan Miklavčič, 2008, original scientific article

Abstract: Background. Numerous experiments have to be performed before a biomedical application is put to practical use in clinical environment. As a complementary work to in vitro, in vivo and medical experiments, we can use analytical and numerical models to represent, as realistically as possible, real biological phenomena of, in our case, electroporation. In this way we canevaluate different electrical parameters in advance, such as pulse amplitude, duration, number of pulses, or different electrode geometries. Suchnumerical models can contribute significantly to the understanding of an experiment and treatment planning as well as to the design of new electroporation devices and electrodes. Methods. We used commercially available modeling software, based on finite element method. We constructed a model of a subcutaneous tumor during electrochemotherapy (EMAS) and a model ofskin during gene electrotransfer (COMSOL Multiphysics). Tissue-electrode geometries, pulse parameters and currentvoltage measurements from in vivo experiments were used to develop and validate the models. Results. To describeadequately our in vivo observations, a tissue conductivity increase during electroporation was included in our numerical models. The output currents of the models were compared to the currents and the voltages measuredduring in vivo experiments and a good agreement was obtained. Also, when comparing the voltages needed for a successful electropermeabilization assuggested by the models, to voltages applied in experiments and achieving a successful electrochemotherapy or in vivo gene electrotransfer, good agreementcan be observed. Conclusions. Modeling of electric current and electric field distribution during cell and tissue electroporation proves to be helpful in describing different aspects of the process and allowing us to design electrodes and electroporation protocols as a part of treatment planning.
Keywords: electroporation, gene electrotransfer, electrochemotherapy, subcutaneous tumor, finite-element method
Published in DiRROS: 07.03.2024; Views: 212; Downloads: 49
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Gene electrotransfer of IL-2 and IL-12 plasmids effectively eradicated murine B16.F10 melanoma
Tilen Komel, Maša Omerzel, Simona Kranjc Brezar, Mariangela De Robertis, M. Mastrodonato, G. Scillitani, G. Pesole, Emanuella Signori, Gregor Serša, Maja Čemažar, 2021, original scientific article

Abstract: Gene therapy has become an important approach for treating cancer, and electroporation represents a technology for introducing therapeutic genes into a cell. An example of cancer gene therapy relying on gene electrotransfer is the use of immunomodulatory cytokines, such as interleukin 2 (IL-2) and 12 (IL-12), which directly stimulate immune cells at the tumour site. The aim of our study was to determine the effects of gene electrotransfer with two plasmids encoding IL-2 and IL-12 in vitro and in vivo. Two different pulse protocols, known as EP1 (600 V/cm, 5 ms, 1 Hz, 8 pulses) and EP2 (1300 V/cm, 100 %s, 1 Hz, 8 pulses), were assessed in vitro for application in subsequent in vivo experiments. In the in vivo experiment, gene electrotransfer of pIL-2 and pIL-12 using the EP1 protocol was performed in B16.F10 murine melanoma. Combined treatment of tumours using pIL2 and pIL12 induced significant tumour growth delay and 71% complete tumour regression. Furthermore, in tumours coexpressing IL-2 and IL-12, increased accumulation of dendritic cells and M1 macrophages was obtained along with the activation of proinflammatory signals, resulting in CD4 + and CD8 + T-lymphocyte recruitment and immune memory development in the mice. In conclusion, we demonstrated high antitumour efficacy of combined IL-2 and IL-12 gene electrotransfer protocols in low-immunogenicity murine B16.F10 melanoma.
Keywords: gene therapy, gene electrotransfer, IL-12, immunotherapy, melanoma
Published in DiRROS: 23.09.2022; Views: 660; Downloads: 193
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Potentiation of electrochemotherapy effectiveness by immunostimulation with IL-12 gene electrotransfer in mice is dependent on tumor immune status
Katja Uršič Valentinuzzi, Špela Kos, Urška Kamenšek, Maja Čemažar, Simona Miceska, Boštjan Markelc, Simon Buček, Barbara Starešinič, Veronika Kloboves-Prevodnik, Richard Heller, Gregor Serša, 2021, original scientific article

Abstract: Electrochemotherapy (ECT) exhibits high therapeutic effectiveness in the clinic, achieving up to 80% local tumor control but without a systemic (abscopal) effect. Therefore, we designed a combination therapy consisting of ECT via intratumoral application of bleomycin, oxaliplatin or cisplatin with peritumoral gene electrotransfer of a plasmid encoding interleukin-12 (p. t. IL-12 GET). Our hypothesis was that p. t. IL-12 GET potentiates the effect of ECT on local and systemic levels and that the potentiation varies depending on tumor immune status. Therefore, the combination therapy was tested in three immunologically different murine tumor models. In poorly immunogenic B16F10 melanoma, IL-12 potentiated the antitumor effect of ECT with biologically equivalent low doses of cisplatin, oxaliplatin or bleomycin. The most pronounced potentiation was observed after ECT using cisplatin, resulting in a complete response rate of 38% and an abscopal effect. Compared to B16F10 melanoma, better responsiveness to ECT was observed in more immunogenic 4%T1 mammary carcinoma and CT26 colorectal carcinoma. In both models, p. t. IL-12 GET did not significantly improve the therapeutic outcome of ECT using any of the chemotherapeutic drugs. Collectively, the effectiveness of the combination therapy depends on tumor immune status. ECT was more effective in more immunogenic tumors, but GET exhibited greater contribution in less immunogenic tumors. Thus, the selection of the therapy, namely, either ECT alone or combination therapy with p. t. IL-12, should be predominantly based on tumor immune status.
Keywords: electrochemotherapy, gene electrotransfer, interleukin-12
Published in DiRROS: 21.09.2022; Views: 617; Downloads: 212
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Evaluation of a novel plasmid for simultaneous gene electrotransfer-mediated silencing of CD105 and CD146 in combination with irradiation
Monika Savarin, Urška Kamenšek, Katarina Žnidar, Vesna Todorović, Gregor Serša, Maja Čemažar, 2021, original scientific article

Abstract: Targeting tumor vasculature through specific endothelial cell markers represents a promising approach for cancer treatment. Here our aim was to construct an antibiotic resistance gene-free plasmid encoding shRNAs to simultaneously target two endothelial cell markers, CD105 and CD146, and to test its functionality and therapeutic potential in vitro when delivered by gene electrotransfer (GET) and combined with irradiation (IR). Functionality of the plasmid was evaluated by determining the silencing of the targeted genes using qRT-PCR. Antiproliferative and antiangiogenic effects were determined by the cytotoxicity assay tube formation assay and wound healing assay in murine endothelial cells 2H-11. The functionality of the plasmid construct was also evaluated in malignant melanoma tumor cell line B16F10. Additionally, potential activation of immune response was measured by induction of DNA sensor STING and proinflammatory cytokines by qRT-PCR in endothelial cells 2H-11. We demonstrated that the plasmid construction was successful and can efficiently silence the expression of the two targeted genes. As a consequence of silencing, reduced migration rate and angiogenic potential was confirmed in 2H-11 endothelial cells. Furthermore, induction of DNA sensor STING and proinflammatory cytokines were determined, which could add to the therapeutic effectiveness when used in vivo. To conclude, we successfully constructed a novel plasmid DNA with two shRNAs, which holds a great promise for further in vivo testing.
Keywords: CD105, CD146, plasmid, gene electrotransfer
Published in DiRROS: 21.09.2022; Views: 576; Downloads: 327
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Mutational burden, MHC-I expression and immune infiltration as limiting factors for in situ vaccination by TNF[alfa] and IL-12 gene electrotransfer
Urška Kamenšek, Katja Uršič Valentinuzzi, Boštjan Markelc, Maja Čemažar, Vita Šetrajčič Dragoš, Gregor Serša, 2021, original scientific article

Abstract: In situ vaccination is a promising immunotherapeutic approach, where various local ablative therapies are used to induce an immune response against tumor antigens that are released from the therapy-killed tumor cells. We recently proposed using intratumoral gene electrotransfer for concomitant transfection of a cytotoxic cytokine tumor necrosis factor-% (TNF%) to induce in situ vaccination, and an immunostimulatory cytokine interleukin 12 (IL-12) to boost the primed immune response. Here, our aim was to test the local and systemic effectiveness of the approach in tree syngeneic mouse tumor models and associate it with tumor immune profiles, characterized by tumor mutational burden, immune infiltration and expression of PD-L1 and MHC-I on tumor cells. While none of the tested characteristic proved predictive for local effectiveness, high tumor mutational burden, immune infiltration and MHC-I expression were associated with higher abscopal effectiveness. Hence, we have confirmed that both the abundance and presentation of tumor antigens as well as the absence of immunosuppressive mechanisms are important for effective in situ vaccination. These findings provide important indications for future development of in situ vaccination based treatments, and for the selection of tumor types that will most likely benefit from it.
Keywords: in situ vaccination, gene electrotransfer, interleukin 12, tumor necrosis factor [alfa]
Published in DiRROS: 19.09.2022; Views: 589; Downloads: 190
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Gene electrotransfer of proinflammatory chemokines CCL5 and CCL17 as a novel approach of modifying cytokine expression profile in the tumor microenvironment
Tim Božič, Gregor Serša, Simona Kranjc Brezar, Maja Čemažar, Boštjan Markelc, 2021, original scientific article

Abstract: The effectiveness of immunotherapy highly correlates with the degree and the type of infiltrated immune cells in the tumor tissue. Treatments based on modifying the immune cell infiltrate of the tumor microenvironment are thus gaining momentum. Therefore, the aim of our study was to investigate the effects of gene therapy with two proinflammatory chemokines CCL5 and CCL17 on inflammatory cytokine expression profile and immune cell infiltrate in two murine breast tumor models, 4T1 and E0771, and two murine colon tumor models, CT26 and MC38. In vitro, lipofection of plasmid DNA encoding CCL5 or CCL17 resulted in changes in the cytokine expression profile similar to control plasmid DNA, implying that the main driver of these changes was the entry of foreign DNA into the cell%s cytosol. In vivo, gene electrotransfer resulted in high expression levels of both Ccl5 and Ccl17 transgenes in the 4T1 and CT26 tumor models. Besides a minor increase in the survival of the treated mice, the therapy also resulted in increased expression of Cxcl9 and Ifn%, potent activators of the immune system, in CT26 tumors. However, this was not recapitulated in changes of TME, implying that a further refinement of the dosing schedule is needed.
Keywords: chemokines, cytokine expression, gene electrotransfer, CCL5
Published in DiRROS: 19.09.2022; Views: 579; Downloads: 165
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