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1.  Cortical Processing of Respiratory Occlusion Stimuli in Children with Central Hypoventilation Syndrome 
Rationale: The ability of patients with central hypoventilation syndrome (CHS) to produce and process mechanoreceptor signals is unknown.
Objectives: Children with CHS hypoventilate during sleep, although they generally breathe adequately during wakefulness. Previous studies suggest that they have compromised central integration of afferent stimuli, rather than abnormal sensors or receptors. Cortical integration of afferent mechanical stimuli caused by respiratory loading or upper airway occlusion can be tested by measuring respiratory-related evoked potentials (RREPs). We hypothesized that patients with CHS would have blunted RREP during both wakefulness and sleep.
Methods: RREPs were produced with multiple upper airway occlusions and were obtained during wakefulness, stage 2, slow-wave, and REM sleep. Ten patients with CHS and 20 control subjects participated in the study, which took place at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Each patient was age- and sex-matched to two control subjects. Wakefulness data were collected from 9 patients and 18 control subjects.
Measurements and Main Results: During wakefulness, patients demonstrated reduced Nf and P300 responses compared with control subjects. During non-REM sleep, patients demonstrated a reduced N350 response. In REM sleep, patients had a later P2 response.
Conclusions: CHS patients are able to produce cortical responses to mechanical load stimulation during both wakefulness and sleep; however, central integration of the afferent signal is disrupted during wakefulness, and responses during non-REM are damped relative to control subjects. The finding of differences between patients and control subjects during REM may be due to increased intrinsic excitatory inputs to the respiratory system in this state.
PMCID: PMC2556457  PMID: 18658113
central hypoventilation syndrome; respiratory-related evoked potentials; wakefulness; sleep
2.  Initial Testing (Stage 1) of the Antibody-Maytansinoid Conjugate, IMGN901 (Lorvotuzumab Mertansine), by the Pediatric Preclinical Testing Program 
Pediatric blood & cancer  2013;60(11):1860-1867.
IMGN901 (lorvotuzumab mertansine) is an antibody-drug conjugate composed of a humanized antibody that specifically binds to CD56 (NCAM, neural cell adhesion molecule) and that is conjugated to the maytansinoid, DM1 (a microtubule targeting agent).
IMGN901 and DM1-SMe (unconjugated DM1 as a mixed disulfide with thiomethane to cap its sulfhydryl group) were tested in vitro at concentrations ranging from 0.01 nM to 0.1 μM and 0.3 pM to 3 nM, respectively. IMGN901 was tested against a subset of PPTP solid tumor xenografts focusing on those with high CD56 expression.The combination of IMGN901 with topotecan was also evaluated.
Neuroblastoma models expressed CD56 at or above the median expression level for all PPTP xenografts and cell lines. Neuroblastoma cell lines demonstrated relatively low sensitivity to DM1-SMe compared to other cell lines, but the sensitivity of neuroblastoma cell lines to IMGN901 was comparable to that of non-neuroblastoma cell lines. In vivo, objective responses were observed in 9 of 24 (38%) models including, 3 of 7 neuroblastoma xenografts, and 2 of 7 rhabdomyosarcoma xenografts. All xenografts with objective responses showed homogeneous high-level staining by IHC for CD56, but not all xenografts with homogenous high-level staining had objective responses. Combined with topotecan, IMGN901 demonstrated therapeutic enhancement against 2 of 4 neuroblastoma models.
IMGN901 has anti-tumor activity against some CD56 expressing pediatric cancer models. High expression of CD56 is a biomarker for in vivo response, but resistance mechanisms to IMGN901 in some high CD56 expressing lines need to be defined.
PMCID: PMC4260400  PMID: 23798344
Preclinical Testing; Developmental Therapeutics; antibody-maytansinoid conjugate; microtubules
3.  Dual CDK4/CDK6 Inhibition Induces Cell Cycle Arrest and Senescence in Neuroblastoma 
Neuroblastoma is a pediatric cancer that continues to exact significant morbidity and mortality. Recently, a number of cell cycle proteins, particularly those within the Cyclin D/CDK4/CDK6/RB network, have been shown to exert oncogenic roles in neuroblastoma, suggesting that their therapeutic exploitation might improve patient outcomes.
Experimental Procedures
We evaluated the effect of dual CDK4/CDK6 inhibition on neuroblastoma viability using LEE011, a highly specific CDK4/6 inhibitor.
Treatment with LEE011 significantly reduced proliferation in 12 of 17 human neuroblastoma-derived cell lines by inducing cytostasis at nanomolar concentrations (mean IC50 = 307 ± 68 nM in sensitive lines). LEE011 caused cell cycle arrest and cellular senescence that was attributed to dose-dependent decreases in phosphorylated RB and FOXM1, respectively. In addition, responsiveness of neuroblastoma xenografts to LEE011 translated to the in vivo setting in that there was a direct correlation of in vitro IC50 values with degree of subcutaneous xenograft growth delay. While our data indicate that neuroblastomas sensitive to LEE011 were more likely to contain genomic amplification of MYCN (p = 0.01), the identification of additional clinically accessible biomarkers is of high importance.
Taken together, our data show that LEE011 is active in a large subset of neuroblastoma cell line and xenograft models, and supports the clinical development of this CDK4/6 inhibitor as a therapy for patients with this disease.
PMCID: PMC3844928  PMID: 24045179
Neuroblastoma; CDK4; CDK6; LEE011; MYCN
4.  Initial Testing (Stage 1) of the histone deacetylase inhibitor, quisinostat (JNJ-26481585), by the Pediatric Preclinical Testing Program 
Pediatric blood & cancer  2013;61(2):245-252.
Quisinostat (JNJ-26481585) is a second generation pyrimidyl-hydroxamic acid histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor with high cellular potency towards class I and II HDACs. Quisinostat was selected for clinical development as it showed prolonged pharmacodynamic effects in vivo and demonstrated improved single agent antitumoral efficacy compared to other analogs.
Quisinostat was tested against the PPTP in vitro panel at concentrations ranging from 1.0 nM to 10 μM and was tested against the PPTP in vivo panels at a dose of 5 mg/kg (solid tumors) or 2.5 mg/kg (ALL models) administered intraperitoneally daily x 21.
In vitro quisinostat demonstrated potent cytotoxic activity, with T/C% values approaching 0% for all of the cell lines at the highest concentration tested. The median relative IC50 value for the PPTP cell lines was 2.2 nM, (range <1 nM to 19 nM). quisinostat induced significant differences in EFS distribution compared to control in 21 of 33 (64%) of the evaluable solid tumor xenografts and in 4 of 8 (50%) of the evaluable ALL xenografts. An objective response was observed in 1 of 33 solid tumor xenografts while for the ALL panel, two xenografts achieved complete response (CR) or maintained CR, and a third ALL xenograft achieved stable disease.
Quisinostat demonstrated broad activity in vitro, and retarded growth in the majority of solid tumor xenografts studied. The most consistent in vivo activity signals observed were for the glioblastoma xenografts and T-cell ALL xenografts.
PMCID: PMC4225045  PMID: 24038993
Preclinical Testing; Developmental Therapeutics; HDAC inhibitor
5.  Initial Testing of the Hypoxia-Activated Prodrug PR-104 by the Pediatric Preclinical Testing Program 
Pediatric blood & cancer  2010;57(3):443-453.
PR-104 is rapidly hydrolyzed to PR-104A in vivo, which is activated by reduction to the corresponding 5-hydroxylamine (PR-104H) and amine (PR-104M) to produce DNA interstrand cross-links. PR-104 activation can occur via hypoxia-dependent reductases and also independently of hypoxia by aldo-keto reductase (AKR) 1C3.
PR-104A was tested against the PPTP in vitro panel (10 nM to 100 μM), and PR-104 in vivo using a weekly × 6 schedule at its maximum tolerated dose (MTD) of 550 mg/kg. Subsequently PR-104 was tested at 270 and 110 mg/kg. Pharmacokinetics for PR-104 and its metabolites were determined, as were levels of AKR1C3 RNA and protein in xenografts.
In vitro, the leukemia models were most sensitive to PR-104A. In vivo, PR-104 induced objective responses at its MTD in 21/34 solid tumor models and maintained complete responses against 7/7 acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) models. At 270 mg/kg and lower dose levels, PR-104 did not induce solid tumor regressions, suggesting a steep dose–response relationship. Pharmacokinetic analysis suggests higher systemic exposures to PR-104A and its metabolites in mice compared to those achievable in patients. Levels of AKR1C3 protein did not correlate with tumor responsiveness.
As monotherapy, PR-104 demonstrated a high level of activity against both solid tumor and ALL models at its MTD, but the activity was almost completely lost at half the MTD dose for solid tumors. Pharmacokinetic data at the PR-104 MTD from human trials suggest that PR-104 metabolites may not reach the plasma exposures in children that were associated with high-level preclinical activity.
PMCID: PMC4304205  PMID: 21744473
developmental therapeutics; preclinical testing; PR-104
6.  Initial Testing (Stage 1) of the mTOR Kinase Inhibitor AZD8055 by the Pediatric Preclinical Testing Program 
Pediatric blood & cancer  2011;58(2):191-199.
AZD8055 is a small molecule ATP-competitive inhibitor of the serine/threonine kinase mTOR that regulates cap-dependent translation through the mTORC1 complex and Akt activation through the mTORC2 complex.
AZD8055 was tested against the PPTP in vitro panel at concentrations ranging from 1.0 nM to 10 μM and against the PPTP in vivo panels at a dose of 20 mg/kg administered orally daily × 7 for 4 weeks.
In vitro the median relative IC50 for AZD8055 against the PPTP cell lines was 24.7 nM. Relative I/O values >0% (consistent with a cytostatic effect) were observed in 8 cell lines and 15 cell lines showed Relative I/O values ranging from −4.7 to −92.2% (consistent with varying degrees of cytotoxic activity). In vivo AZD8055 induced significant differences in EFS distribution compared to controls in 23 of 36 (64%) evaluable solid tumor xenografts, and 1 of 6 evaluable ALL xenografts. Intermediate activity for the time to event activity measure (EFS T/C >2) was observed in 5 of 32 (16%) solid tumor xenografts evaluable. The best response was stable disease. PD2 (progressive disease with growth delay) was observed in 20 of 36 (55.6%) evaluable solid tumor xenografts. AZD8055 significantly inhibited 4E-BP1, S6, and Akt phosphorylation following day 1 and day 4 dosing, but suppression of mTORC1 or mTORC2 signaling did not predict tumor sensitivity.
AZD8055 demonstrated broad activity in vitro, but at the dose and schedule studied demonstrated limited activity in vivo against the PPTP solid tumor and ALL panels.
PMCID: PMC4304209  PMID: 21337679
developmental therapeutics; mTOR inhibitor; preclinical testing
7.  Initial Testing (Stage 1) of the Polo-Like Kinase Inhibitor Volasertib (BI 6727), by the Pediatric Preclinical Testing Program 
Pediatric blood & cancer  2013;61(1):158-164.
Volasertib (BI 6727) is a potent inhibitor of Polo-like kinase 1 (Plk1), that is overexpressed in several childhood cancers and cell lines. Because of its novel mechanism of action, volasertib was evaluated through the PPTP.
Volasertib was tested against the PPTP in vitro cell line panel at concentrations from 0.1 nM to 1.0 μM and against the PPTP in vivo xenograft panels administered I.V at a dose of 30 mg/kg (solid tumors) or 15 mg/kg (ALL models) using a q7dx3 schedule.
In vitro volasertib demonstrated cytotoxic activity, with a median relative IC50 value of 14.1 nM, (range 6.0 nM to 135 nM). Volasertib induced significant differences in EFS in 19 of 32 (59%) of the evaluable solid tumor xenografts and in 2 of 4 (50%) of the evaluable ALL xenografts. Volasertib induced tumor growth inhibition meeting criteria for intermediate EFS T/C (>2) activity in 11 of 30 (37%) evaluable solid tumor xenografts, including neuroblastoma (4 of 6) and glioblastoma (2 of 3) panels, and 2 of 4 ALL models. Objective responses (CR’s) were observed for 4 of 32 solid tumor (2 neuroblastoma, 1 glioblastoma, and 1 rhabdomyosarcoma) and 1 of 4 ALL xenografts.
Volasertib shows potent in vitro activity against the PPTP cell lines with no histotype selectivity. In vivo, volasertib induced regressions in several xenograft models. However, pharmacokinetic data suggest that mice tolerate higher systemic exposure to volasertib than humans, suggesting that the current results may over-estimate potential clinical efficacy against the childhood cancers studied.
PMCID: PMC4241497  PMID: 23956067
Preclinical Testing; Developmental Therapeutics; Plk inhibitor
8.  Initial Testing (Stage 1) of the IGF-1 Receptor Inhibitor BMS-754807 by the Pediatric Preclinical Testing Program 
Pediatric blood & cancer  2010;56(4):595-603.
BMS-754807 is a small molecule ATP-competitive inhibitor of the type-1 insulin-like growth factor receptor currently in phase 1 clinical trials.
BMS-754807 was tested against the Pediatric Preclinical Testing Program (PPTP) in vitro panel at concentrations ranging from 1.0 nM to 10 μM and was tested against the PPTP in vivo panels at a dose of 25 mg/kg administered orally BID for 6 days, repeated for 6 weeks.
In vitro BMS-754807 showed a median EC50 value of 0.62 μM against the PPTP cell lines. The median EC50 for the four Ewing sarcoma cell lines was less than that for the remaining PPTP cell lines (0.19 μM vs. 0.78 μM, P = 0.0470). In vivo BMS-754807 induced significant differences in EFS distribution compared to controls in 18 of 32 evaluable solid tumor xenografts (56%) tested, but in none of the ALL xenografts studied. Criteria for intermediate activity for the time to event activity measure (EFS T/C >2) were met in 7 of 27 solid tumor xenografts evaluable for this measure. The best response was PD2 (progressive disease with growth delay), which was observed in 18 of 32 solid tumor xenografts. PD2 responses were most commonly observed in the rhabdomyosarcoma, neuroblastoma, osteosarcoma, Ewing sarcoma, and Wilms tumor panels.
BMS-754807 activity in vitro is consistent with a specific IGF-1R effect that has half-maximal response in the 0.1 μM range and that is observed in a minority of the PPTP cell lines. In vivo intermediate activity was most commonly observed in the neuroblastoma and rhabdomyosarcoma panels.
PMCID: PMC4263954  PMID: 21298745
developmental therapeutics; IGF-1 receptor inhibitor; preclinical testing
9.  Initial Testing (Stage 1) of Eribulin, a Novel Tubulin Binding Agent, by the Pediatric Preclinical Testing Program 
Pediatric blood & cancer  2013;60(8):1325-1332.
Antimitotic agents are essential components for curative therapy of pediatric acute leukemias and many solid tumors. Eribulin is a novel agent that differs from both Vinca alkaloids and taxanes in its mode of binding to tubulin polymers.
Eribulin was tested against the PPTP in vitro cell line panel at concentrations from 0.1 nM to 1.0 μM and against the PPTP in vivo xenograft panels at a dose of 1 mg/kg (solid tumors) or 1.5 mg/kg (ALL models) using a q4dx3 schedule repeated at Day 21.
In vitro eribulin demonstrated cytotoxic activity, with a median relative IC50 value of 0.27 nM, (range <0.1–14.8 nM). Eribulin was well tolerated in vivo, and all 43 xenograft models were considered evaluable for efficacy. Eribulin induced significant differences in event-free survival (EFS) distribution compared to control in 29 of 35 (83%) of the solid tumors and in 8 of 8 (100%) of the ALL xenografts. Objective responses were observed in 18 of 35 (51%) solid tumor xenografts. Complete responses (CR) or maintained CR were observed in panels of Wilms tumor, Ewing sarcoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, glioblastoma, and osteosarcoma xenografts. All eight ALL xenografts achieved CR or MCR.
The high level of activity observed for eribulin against the PPTP preclinical models makes this an interesting agent to consider for pediatric evaluation. The activity pattern observed for eribulin in the solid tumor panels is equal or superior to that observed previously for vincristine.
PMCID: PMC4263960  PMID: 23553917
developmental therapeutics; PI3K inhibitor; preclinical testing
10.  Initial Testing (Stage 1) of Temozolomide by the Pediatric Preclinical Testing Program 
Pediatric blood & cancer  2013;60(5):783-790.
The DNA methylating agent temozolomide was developed primarily for treatment of glioblastoma. However, preclinical data have suggested a broader application for treatment of childhood cancer. Temozolomide was tested against the PPTP solid tumor and ALL models.
Temozolomide was tested against the PPTP in vitro panel at concentrations ranging from 0.1 to 1,000 μM and was tested against the PPTP in vivo panels at doses from 22 to 100 mg/kg administered orally daily for 5 days, repeated at day 21.
In vitro temozolomide showed cytotoxicity with a median relative IC50 (rIC50) value of 380 μM against the PPTP cell lines (range 1 to > 1,000 μM). The three lines with rIC50 values lesser than 10 μM had low MGMT expression compared to the remaining cell lines. In vivo temozolomide demonstrated significant toxicity at 100 mg/kg, but induced tumor regressions in 15 of 23 evaluable solid tumor models (13 maintained CR [MCR], 2 CR) and 5 of 8 ALL models (3 MCR, 2 CR). There was a steep dose response curve, with lower activity at 66 mg/kg temozolomide and with tumor regressions at 22 and 44 mg/kg restricted to models with low MGMT expression.
Temozolomide demonstrated high level antitumor activity against both solid tumor and leukemia models, but also elicited significant toxicity at the highest dose level. Lowering the dose of TMZ to more closely match clinical exposures markedly reduced the antitumor activity for many xenograft lines with responsiveness at lower doses closely related to low MGMT expression.
PMCID: PMC4244112  PMID: 23335050
developmental therapeutics; preclinical testing; temodar
11.  A Three-Gene Expression Signature Model for Risk Stratification of Patients with Neuroblastoma 
Neuroblastoma is an embryonal tumor with contrasting clinical courses. Despite elaborate stratification strategies, precise clinical risk assessment still remains a challenge. The purpose of this study was to develop a PCR-based predictor model to improve clinical risk assessment of patients with neuroblastoma.
Experimental Design
The model was developed using real-time PCR gene expression data from 96 samples and tested on separate expression data sets obtained from real-time PCR and microarray studies comprising 362 patients.
On the basis of our prior study of differentially expressed genes in favorable and unfavorable neuroblastoma subgroups, we identified three genes, CHD5, PAFAH1B1, and NME1, strongly associated with patient outcome. The expression pattern of these genes was used to develop a PCR-based single-score predictor model. The model discriminated patients into two groups with significantly different clinical outcome [set 1: 5-year overall survival (OS): 0.93 ± 0.03 vs. 0.53 ± 0.06, 5-year event-free survival (EFS): 0.85 ± 0.04 vs. 0.042 ± 0.06, both P < 0.001; set 2 OS: 0.97 ± 0.02 vs. 0.61 ± 0.1, P = 0.005, EFS: 0.91 ± 0.8 vs. 0.56 ± 0.1, P = 0.005; and set 3 OS: 0.99 ± 0.01 vs. 0.56 ± 0.06, EFS: 0.96 ± 0.02 vs. 0.43 ± 0.05, both P < 0.001]. Multivariate analysis showed that the model was an independent marker for survival (P < 0.001, for all). In comparison with accepted risk stratification systems, the model robustly classified patients in the total cohort and in different clinically relevant risk subgroups.
We propose for the first time in neuroblastoma, a technically simple PCR-based predictor model that could help refine current risk stratification systems.
PMCID: PMC4240975  PMID: 22328561
12.  Phase I trial of lestaurtinib for children with refractory neuroblastoma: a new approaches to neuroblastoma therapy consortium study 
Cancer chemotherapy and pharmacology  2011;68(4):1057-1065.
TrkB acts as an oncogenic kinase in a subset of human neuroblastomas. Lestaurtinib, a multi-kinase inhibitor with potent activity against Trk kinases, has demonstrated activity in preclinical models of neuroblastoma.
Patients with refractory high-risk neuroblastoma received lestaurtinib twice daily for 5 days out of seven in 28-day cycles, starting at 70% of the adult recommended Phase 2 dose. Lestaurtinib dose was escalated using a 3 + 3 design. Pharmacokinetics and plasma phospho-TrkB inhibitory activity were evaluated in the first cycle.
Forty-seven subjects were enrolled, and 10 dose levels explored starting at 25 mg/M2/dose BID. Forty-six subjects were evaluable for response, and 42 subjects were fully evaluable for determination of dose escalation. Asymptomatic and reversible grade 3–4 transaminase elevation was dose limiting in 4 subjects. Reversible pancreatitis (grade 2) was observed in 3 subjects after prolonged treatment at higher dose levels. Other toxicities were mild and reversible. Pharmacokinetic analyses revealed rapid drug absorption, however inter-patient variability was large. Plasma inhibition of phospho-TrkB activity was observed 1 h post-dosing at 85 mg/M2 with uniform inhibition at 120 mg/M2. There were two partial responses and nine subjects had prolonged stable disease at dose levels ≥ 5, (median: 6 cycles). A biologically effective and recommended phase 2 dose of 120 mg/M2/dose BID was established.
Lestaurtinib was well tolerated in patients with refractory neuroblastoma, and a dose level sufficient to inhibit TrkB activity was established. Safety and signs of activity at the higher dose levels warrant further evaluation in neuroblastoma.
PMCID: PMC4238911  PMID: 21340605
Neuroblastoma; Receptor tyrosine kinase; Targeted therapy; Lestaurtinib; Signal transduction
13.  Initial Testing (Stage 1) of Ganetespib, an Hsp90 Inhibitor, by the Pediatric Preclinical Testing Program 
Pediatric blood & cancer  2013;60(7):E42-E45.
Ganetespib, an Hsp90 inhibitor, was tested against the PPTP in vitro cell line panel and selected xenografts in vivo, including JAK2- and BRAF-mutated models. Ganetespib demonstrated potent in vitro cytotoxic activity (median rIC50 8.8 nM, range 4.4–27.1 nM). In vivo, ganetespib induced significant differences in EFS distribution for 4 of 11 xenografts. Intermediate activity (EFS T/C > 2) was noted only for the MV4;11 xenograft, and there were no objective responses. Administered as single agents, Hsp90 inhibitors examined by the PPTP have shown limited evidence for a therapeutic window against both solid tumor and leukemia pediatric preclinical models.
PMCID: PMC4225043  PMID: 23303741
Developmental therapeutics; Hsp90 inhibitors; preclinical testing
14.  Phase I Trial of Fenretinide Delivered Orally in a Novel Organized Lipid Complex in Patients with Relapsed/Refractory Neuroblastoma: A Report from the New Approaches to Neuroblastoma Therapy (NANT) Consortium 
Pediatric blood & cancer  2013;60(11):1801-1808.
A phase I study was conducted to determine the maximum-tolerated dose, dose-limiting toxicities (DLTs), and pharmacokinetics of fenretinide (4-HPR) delivered in an oral powderized lipid complex (LXS) in patients with relapsed/refractory neuroblastoma.
4-HPR/LXS powder (352 - 2210 mg/m2/day) was administered on Days 0 – 6, in 21-day courses, by standard 3+3 design.
Thirty-two patients (median age = 8 years, range 3 – 27 years) enrolled with thirty evaluable for dose escalation. Prior therapies included stem cell transplantation/support (n = 26), 13-cis-retinoic acid (n = 22), 125/131I-MIBG (n = 13), and anti-GD2 antibody (n = 6). 170+ courses were delivered. Course 1 DLTs were a Grade 3 (n = 1) alkaline phosphatase at 352 mg/m2/day. Other major toxicities were Grade 4 (n = 1) alkaline phosphatases on Courses 5 and 6 at 774 mg/m2/day, and Grade 3 (n = 1) ALT/AST elevation on Course 2 at 1700 mg/m2/day. Of twenty-nine response-evaluable patients, six had stable disease (SD)(4 – 26 courses); four with marrow- or bone disease-only had complete responses (CR)(10 - 46 courses). 4-HPR plasma levels were several fold higher (P<0.05) than previously reported using capsular fenretinide. The Day 6 mean peak 4-HPR plasma level at 1700 mg/m2/day was 21 μM. An MTD was not reached.
4-HPR/LXS oral powder obtained higher plasma levels, with minimal toxicity and evidence of anti-tumor activity, than a previous capsule formulation. A recommended phase II schedule of 4-HPR/LXS powder is 1500 mg/m2/day, TID, on Days 0 – 6, of a 21-day course.
PMCID: PMC4066886  PMID: 23813912
fenretinide; neuroblastoma; pediatric; powder; Lym-X-Sorb™
15.  Molecular Characterization of the Pediatric Preclinical Testing Panel 
Identifying novel therapeutic agents for the treatment of childhood cancers requires preclinical models that recapitulate the molecular characteristics of their respective clinical histotypes.
Experimental Design and Results
Here, we have applied Affymetrix HG-U133Plus2 profiling to an expanded panel of models in the Pediatric Preclinical Testing Program. Profiling led to exclusion of two tumor lines that were of mouse origin and five osteosarcoma lines that did not cluster with human or xenograft osteosarcoma samples. We compared expression profiles of the remaining 87 models with profiles from 112 clinical samples representing the same histologies and show that model tumors cluster with the appropriate clinical histotype, once “immunosurveillance” genes (contributed by infiltrating immune cells in clinical samples) are eliminated from the analysis. Analysis of copy number alterations using the Affymetrix 100K single nucleotide polymorphism GeneChip showed that the models have similar copy number alterations to their clinical counterparts. Several consistent copy number changes not reported previously were found (e.g., gain at 22q11.21 that was observed in 5 of 7 glioblastoma samples, loss at 16q22.3 that was observed in 5 of 9 Ewing’s sarcoma and 4 of 12 rhabdomyosarcoma models, and amplification of 21q22.3 that was observed in 5 of 7 osteosarcoma models). We then asked whether changes in copy number were reflected by coordinate changes in gene expression. We identified 493 copy number – altered genes that are nonrandom and appear to identify histotype-specific programs of genetic alterations.
These data indicate that the preclinical models accurately recapitulate expression profiles and genetic alterations common to childhood cancer, supporting their value in drug development.
PMCID: PMC4209898  PMID: 18628472
16.  Purged versus non-purged peripheral blood stem-cell transplantation for high-risk neuroblastoma (COG A3973): a randomised phase 3 trial 
The lancet oncology  2013;14(10):999-1008.
Myeloablative chemoradiotherapy and immunomagnetically purged autologous bone marrow transplantation has been shown to improve outcome for patients with high-risk neuroblastoma. Currently, peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) are infused after myeloablative therapy, but the effect of purging is unknown. We did a randomised study of tumour-selective PBSC purging in stem-cell transplantation for patients with high-risk neuroblastoma.
Between March 16, 2001, and Feb 24, 2006, children and young adults (<30 years) with high-risk neuroblastoma were randomly assigned at diagnosis by a web-based system (in a 1:1 ratio) to receive either nonpurged or immunomagnetically purged PBSC. Randomisation was done in blocks stratified by International Neuroblastoma Staging System stage, age, MYCN status, and International Neuroblastoma Pathology classification. Patients and treating physicians were not masked to treatment assignment. All patients were treated with six cycles of induction chemotherapy, myeloablative consolidation, and radiation therapy to the primary tumour site plus metaiodobenzylguanidine avid metastases present before myeloablative therapy, followed by oral isotretinoin. PBSC collection was done after two induction cycles. For purging, PBSC were mixed with carbonyl iron and phagocytic cells removed with samarium cobalt magnets. Remaining cells were mixed with immunomagnetic beads prepared with five monoclonal antibodies targeting neuroblastoma cell surface antigens and attached cells were removed using samarium cobalt magnets. Patients underwent autologous stem-cell transplantation with PBSC as randomly assigned after six cycles of induction therapy. The primary endpoint was event-free survival and was analysed by intention-to-treat. The trial is registered with, number NCT00004188.
495 patients were enrolled, of whom 486 were randomly assigned to treatment: 243 patients to receive non-purged PBSC and 243 to received purged PBSC. PBSC were collected from 229 patients from the purged group and 236 patients from the non-purged group, and 180 patients from the purged group and 192 from the non-purged group received transplant. 5-year event-free survival was 40% (95% CI 33–46) in the purged group versus 36% (30–42) in the non-purged group (p=0·77); 5-year overall survival was 50% (95% CI 43–56) in the purged group compared with 51% (44–57) in the non-purged group (p=0·81). Toxic deaths occurred in 15 patients during induction (eight in the purged group and seven in the non-purged group) and 12 during consolidation (eight in the purged group and four in the non-purged group). The most common adverse event reported was grade 3 or worse stomatitis during both induction (87 of 242 patients in the purged group and 93 of 243 patients in the non-purged group) and consolidation (131 of 177 in the purged group vs 145 of 191 in the non-purged group). Serious adverse events during induction were grade 3 or higher decreased cardiac function (four of 242 in the purged group and five of 243 in the non-purged group) and elevated creatinine (five of 242 in the purged group and six of 243 non-purged group) and during consolidation were sinusoidal obstructive syndrome (12 of 177 in the purged group and 17 of 191 in the non-purged group), acute vascular leak (11 of 177 in the purged group and nine of 191 in the non-purged group), and decreased cardiac function (one of 177 in the purged group and four of 191 in the non-purged group).
Immunomagnetic purging of PBSC for autologous stem-cell transplantation did not improve outcome, perhaps because of incomplete purging or residual tumour in patients. Non-purged PBSC are acceptable for support of myeloablative therapy of high-risk neuroblastoma.
National Cancer Institute and Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.
PMCID: PMC3963485  PMID: 23890779
17.  Preclinical evaluation of lestaurtinib (CEP-701) in combination with retinoids for neuroblastoma 
Cancer chemotherapy and pharmacology  2011;68(6):1469-1475.
Lestaurtinib (CEP-701), a multi-kinase inhibitor with potent activity against the Trk family of receptor tyrosine kinases, has undergone early phase clinical evaluation in children with relapsed neuroblastoma. We studied the interaction of CEP-701 with isotretinoin (13cRA) and fenretinide (4HPR), two retinoids that have been studied in children with high-risk neuroblastoma.
In vitro growth inhibition was assessed following a 72-hour drug exposure using the sulforhodamine B (SRB) assay in eight neuroblastoma cell lines with variable TrkB expression. When appropriate, the combination index (CI) of Chou-Talalay was used to characterize the interaction of 13cRA (non-constant ratio) or 4HPR (constant ratio) with CEP-701.
The median (range) IC50 of single-agent CEP-701 across all cell lines was 0.09 (0.08–0.3) μM. The combination of 13cRA and CEP-701 resulted in additive to synergistic interactions in four of the five cell lines studied. Addition of 1 or 5 μM of 13cRA decreased the median (range) CEP-701 IC50 1.5-fold (1.1–2.8-fold) and 1.7-fold (1.5–1.8-fold), respectively. With 10 μM 13cRA, less than 50% of cells survived when combined with various concentrations of CEP-701. The combination of 4HPR and CEP-701 trended toward being antagonistic, with a median (range) CI at the ED50 of 1.3 (1.1–1.5).
The combination of 13cRA and CEP-701 was additive or synergistic in a spectrum of neuroblastoma cell lines, suggesting that these agents can be potentially studied together in the setting of minimal residual disease following intensive chemoradiotherapy for children with high-risk neuroblastoma.
PMCID: PMC4135359  PMID: 21484309
Neuroblastoma; Retinoid; Lestaurtinib (CEP-701); In vitro
18.  Initial Testing (Stage 1) of SGI-1776, a PIM1 Kinase Inhibitor, by the Pediatric Preclinical Testing Program 
Pediatric blood & cancer  2011;59(4):749-752.
The PIM kinase inhibitor, SGI-1776, was tested against the PPTP in vitro (1.0 nM to 10 μM) and in vivo panels (148 mg/kg daily x 5 days for 3 weeks). SGI-1776 exhibited cytotoxic activity in vitro with a median relative IC50 of 3.1 μM. SGI-1776 induced significant differences in EFS distribution in vivo in 9 of 31 solid tumor xenografts and in 1 of 8 of the evaluable ALL xenografts. SGI-1776 induced tumor growth inhibition meeting criteria for intermediate EFS T/C activity in 1 of 39 evaluable models. In contrast, SGI-1776 induced complete responses of subcutaneous MV4;11 (B myeloid leukemia).
PMCID: PMC3276706  PMID: 22052829
Preclinical Testing; Developmental Therapeutics; kinase inhibitors
19.  A Functional Screen Identifies miR-34a as a Candidate Neuroblastoma Tumor Suppressor Gene 
Molecular cancer research : MCR  2008;6(5):735-742.
MicroRNAs are small noncoding RNAs that have critical roles in regulating a number of cellular functions through transcriptional silencing. They have been implicated as oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes (oncomirs) in several human neoplasms. We used an integrated genomics and functional screening strategy to identify potential oncomirs in the pediatric neoplasm neuroblastoma. We first identified microRNAs that map within chromosomal regions that we and others have defined as frequently deleted (1p36, 3p22, and 11q23-24) or gained (17q23) in high-risk neuroblastoma. We then transiently transfected microRNA precursor mimics or inhibitors into a panel of six neuroblastoma cell lines that we characterized for these genomic aberrations. The majority of transfections showed no phenotypic effect, but the miR-34a (1p36) and miR-34c (11q23) mimics showed dramatic growth inhibition in cell lines with 1p36 hemizygous deletion. In contrast, there was no growth inhibition by these mimics in cell lines without 1p36 deletions. Quantitative reverse transcription-PCR showed a perfect correlation of absent miR-34a expression in cell lines with a 1p36 aberration and phenotypic effect after mimetic add-back. Expression of miR-34a was also decreased in primary tumors (n = 54) with 1p36 deletion (P = 0.009), but no mutations were discovered in resequencing of the miR-34a locus in 30 neuroblastoma cell lines. Flow cytometric time series analyses showed that the likely mechanism of miR-34a growth inhibition is through cell cycle arrest followed by apoptosis. BCL2 and MYCN were identified as miR-34a targets and likely mediators of the tumor suppressor phenotypic effect. These data support miR-34a as a tumor suppressor gene in human neuroblastoma.
PMCID: PMC3760152  PMID: 18505919
20.  Pediatric Phase I Trial and Pharmacokinetic Study of MLN8237, an Investigational Oral Selective Small-Molecule Inhibitor of Aurora Kinase A: A Children's Oncology Group Phase I Consortium Study 
MLN8237, a selective small-molecule inhibitor of Aurora kinase A, has activity in a broad range of preclinical pediatric cancer models. We conducted a phase I trial in children with refractory/recurrent solid tumors to define the maximum-tolerated dose, toxicities, and pharmacokinetic properties of MLN8237.
Experimental Design
MLN8237 was administered orally either once daily or divided twice daily for seven days, every 21 days. Using a rolling-six design, four dose levels (45, 60, 80, and 100 mg/m2/day) were evaluated on the once-daily schedule, and two dose levels (60 and 80 mg/m2/d) on the twice-daily schedule. Pharmacokinetic studies were conducted with the initial dose and trough drug concentrations also measured at the steady state.
Thirty-seven patients were enrolled. On the once-daily dosing schedule, myelosuppression was dose limiting in three of four patients at 100 mg/m2, and one of six patients had dose-limiting mood alteration at 80 mg/m2. At 45 mg/m2, one of six patients experienced dose-limiting mucositis. Mucositis and myelosuppression were dose limiting at 80 mg/m2 on the twice-daily schedule, and one of five patients at 60 mg/m2 on the twice-daily schedule experienced a dose-limiting alkaline phosphatase. Five of 11 patients experienced hand–foot–skin syndrome with twice-daily dosing versus one of 21 after once-daily dosing. There was one partial response and six with prolonged stable disease among 33 evaluable subjects.
The twice-daily dose regimen is well tolerated in adults; however, children experienced a greater frequency of myelosuppression and hand–foot–skin syndrome on this schedule. Children tolerated a higher dose and the recommended pediatric phase II dose is 80 mg/m2/d once daily for seven days.
PMCID: PMC4008248  PMID: 22988055
21.  Targeting MYCN: A Good BET for Improving Neuroblastoma Therapy? 
Cancer discovery  2013;3(3):255-257.
Direct targeting of oncogenic MYC proteins has been an elusive goal of many cancer drug development efforts. In this issue of Cancer Discovery, Stegmaier and colleagues demonstrate that pharmacologically interfering with the bromodomain and extraterminal (BET) class of proteins potently depletes MYCN in neuroblastoma cells, resulting in cellular cytotoxicity and thus providing a novel approach with a potential impact on a previously undruggable major oncogene.
PMCID: PMC3709873  PMID: 23475876
22.  Initial Testing of the MDM2 Inhibitor RG7112 by the Pediatric Preclinical Testing Program 
Pediatric blood & cancer  2012;60(4):633-641.
RG7112 is a selective inhibitor of p53-MDM2 binding that frees p53 from negative control, activating the p53 pathway in cancer cells leading to cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. RG7112 was selected for evaluation by the Pediatric Preclinical Testing Program (PPTP) due to the relatively low incidence of p53 mutations in pediatric cancers compared with adult malignancies.
RG7112 and its inactive enantiomer RG7112i were evaluated against the 23 cell lines of the PPTP in vitro panel using 96 hour exposure (1 nM to 10 µM). It was tested against the PPTP in vivo panel focusing on p53 wild-type (WT) xenografts at a dose of 100 mg/kg daily for 14 days followed by 4 weeks of observation. Response outcomes were related to MDM2 and p53 expression datasets (
RG7112 demonstrated cytotoxic activity with a lower median IC50 for p53 WT versus p53 mutant cell lines (approximately 0.4 µM versus > 10 µM, respectively). RG7112 induced tumor growth inhibition meeting criteria for intermediate activity (EFS T/C > 2) in 10 of 26 (38%) solid tumor xenografts. Objective responses included medulloblastoma, alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, Wilms, rhabdoid and Ewing sarcoma xenografts. For the ALL panel, there was 1 partial response, 5 complete responses and 1 maintained complete response. The ALL xenografts expressed the highest levels of p53 among the PPTP panels.
RG7112 induced tumor regressions in solid tumors from different histotype panels, and exhibited consistent high-level activity against ALL xenografts. This high level of activity supports prioritization of RG7112 for further evaluation.
PMCID: PMC3495996  PMID: 22753001
Preclinical Testing; Developmental Therapeutics; RG7112
23.  Outcome After Surgery Alone or With Restricted Use of Chemotherapy for Patients With Low-Risk Neuroblastoma: Results of Children's Oncology Group Study P9641 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2012;30(15):1842-1848.
The primary objective of Children's Oncology Group study P9641 was to demonstrate that surgery alone would achieve 3-year overall survival (OS) ≥ 95% for patients with asymptomatic International Neuroblastoma Staging System stages 2a and 2b neuroblastoma (NBL). Secondary objectives focused on other low-risk patients with NBL and on those who required chemotherapy according to protocol-defined criteria.
Patients and Methods
Patients underwent maximally safe resection of tumor. Chemotherapy was reserved for patients with, or at risk for, symptomatic disease, with less than 50% tumor resection at diagnosis, or with unresectable progressive disease after surgery alone.
For all 915 eligible patients, 5-year event-free survival (EFS) and OS were 89% ± 1% and 97% ± 1%, respectively. For patients with asymptomatic stage 2a or 2b disease, 5-year EFS and OS were 87% ± 2% and 96% ± 1%, respectively. Among patients with stage 2b disease, EFS and OS were significantly lower for those with unfavorable histology or diploid tumors, and OS was significantly lower for those ≥ 18 months old. For patients with stage 1 and 4s NBL, 5-year OS rates were 99% ± 1% and 91% ± 1%, respectively. Patients who required chemotherapy at diagnosis achieved 5-year OS of 98% ± 1%. Of all patients observed after surgery, 11.1% experienced recurrence or progression of disease.
Excellent survival rates can be achieved in asymptomatic low-risk patients with stages 2a and 2b NBL after surgery alone. Immediate use of chemotherapy may be restricted to a minority of patients with low-risk NBL. Patients with stage 2b disease who are older or have diploid or unfavorable histology tumors fare less well. Future studies will seek to refine risk classification.
PMCID: PMC3383182  PMID: 22529259
24.  Peripheral Neuroblastic Tumors with Genotype-Phenotype Discordance: A Report from the Children’s Oncology Groupand the International Neuroblastoma Pathology Committee 
Pediatric blood & cancer  2012;60(3):363-370.
Of 4,706 peripheral neuroblastic tumors (pNTs) registered on the Children’s Cancer Group and Children’s Oncology Group Neuroblastoma Study between 1989 and 2010, 51 cases (1.1%) had genotype-phenotype discordance characterized by MYCN amplification (indicating poor prognosis) and Favorable Histology (indicating better prognosis).
To distinguish prognostic subgroups in the genotype-phenotype discordant pNTs, two subgroups, “conventional” and “bull’s eye”, were identified based on the nuclear morphology. The “conventional” tumors (35 cases) included: Neuroblastoma, Poorly differentiated subtype (NB-PD, 26 cases) with “salt-and-pepper” nuclei; Neuroblastoma, Differentiating subtype (4 cases); Ganglioneuroblastoma, Intermixed (3 cases); and Ganglioneuroma, Maturing subtype (2 cases). The “bull’s eye” tumors included NB-PD with prominent nucleoli (16 cases). Clinicopathologic characteristics of these two subgroups were analyzed. N-myc protein expression was tested immunohistochemically on available tumors.
No significant difference was found between these two subgroups in the distribution of prognostic factors such as age at diagnosis, clinical stage, histopathology category/subtype, mitosis-karyorrhexis index, ploidy, 1p LOH, and unbalanced 11qLOH. However, prognosis of the patients with “conventional” tumors (5-year EFS 85.7±12.2%; OS 89.3±10.3%) was significantly better than those with “bull’s eye” tumors (EFS 31.3±13.0%; OS 42.9±16.2%) (P=0.0010 and 0.0008, respectively). Immunohistochemically all (11/11) tested “conventional” tumors were negative, and 10/11 tested “bull’s eye” tumors were positive for N-myc protein expression.
Based on the presence or absence of prominent nucleoli (the putative site of RNA synthesis/accumulation leading to N-myc protein expression), two prognostic subgroups, “conventional” with a better prognosis and “bull’s eye” with a poor prognosis, were distinguished among the genotype-phenotype discordant pNTs.
PMCID: PMC3397468  PMID: 22744966
neuroblastoma; International Neuroblastoma Pathology Classification; MYCN; genotype-phenotype correlation; prognosis; immunohistochemistry
25.  Replication of GWAS-identified neuroblastoma risk loci strengthens the role of BARD1 and affirms the cumulative effect of genetic variations on disease susceptibility 
Carcinogenesis  2012;34(3):605-611.
Several neuroblastoma (NB) susceptibility loci have been identified within LINC00340, BARD1, LMO1, DUSP12, HSD17B12, DDX4, IL31RA, HACE1 and LIN28B by genome-wide association (GWA) studies including European American individuals. To validate and comprehensively evaluate the impact of the identified NB variants on disease risk and phenotype, we analyzed 16 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in an Italian population (370 cases and 809 controls). We assessed their regulatory activity on gene expression in lymphoblastoid (LCLs) and NB cell lines. We evaluated the cumulative effect of the independent loci on NB risk and high-risk phenotype development in Italian and European American (1627 cases and 2575 controls) populations. All NB susceptibility genes replicated in the Italian dataset except for DDX4 and IL31RA, and the most significant SNP was rs6435862 in BARD1 (P = 8.4×10–15). BARD1 showed an additional and independent SNP association (rs7585356). This variant influenced BARD1 mRNA expression in LCLs and NB cell lines. No evidence of epistasis among the NB-associated variants was detected, whereas a cumulative effect of risk variants on NB risk (European Americans: P trend = 6.9×10–30, Italians: P trend = 8.55×1013) and development of high-risk phenotype (European Americans: P trend = 6.9×10–13, Italians: P trend = 2.2×10–1) was observed in a dose-dependent manner. These results provide further evidence that the risk loci identified in GWA studies contribute to NB susceptibility in distinct populations and strengthen the role of BARD1 as major genetic contributor to NB risk. This study shows that even in the absence of interaction the combination of several low-penetrance alleles has potential to distinguish subgroups of patients at different risks of developing NB.
PMCID: PMC3716226  PMID: 23222812

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