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author:("scarff, Paola")
1.  Expression of FOXP3, CD14, and ARG1 in Neuroblastoma Tumor Tissue from High-Risk Patients Predicts Event-Free and Overall Survival 
BioMed Research International  2015;2015:347867.
The prognosis of children with metastatic neuroblastoma (NB) > 18 months at diagnosis is dismal. Since the immune status of the tumor microenvironment could play a role in the history of disease, we evaluated the expression of CD45, CD14, ARG1, CD163, CD4, FOXP3, Perforin-1 (PRF1), Granzyme B (GRMB), and IL-10 mRNAs in primary tumors at diagnosis from children with metastatic NB and tested whether the transcript levels are significantly associated to event-free and overall survival (EFS and OS, resp.). Children with high expression of CD14, ARG1 and FOXP3 mRNA in their primary tumors had significantly better EFS. Elevated expression of CD14, and FOXP3 mRNA was significantly associated to better OS. CD14 mRNA expression levels significantly correlated to all markers, with the exception of CD4. Strong positive correlations were found between PRF1 and CD163, as well as between PFR1 and FOXP3. It is worth noting that the combination of high levels of CD14, FOXP3, and ARG1 mRNAs identified a small group of patients with excellent EFS and OS, whereas low levels of CD14 were sufficient to identify patients with dismal survival. Thus, the immune status of the primary tumors of high-risk NB patients may influence the natural history of this pediatric cancer.
PMCID: PMC4486282  PMID: 26161395
2.  Serum levels of cytoplasmic melanoma-associated antigen at diagnosis may predict clinical relapse in neuroblastoma patients 
Cancer immunology, immunotherapy : CII  2011;60(10):1485-1495.
The high molecular weight melanoma-associated antigen (HMW-MAA) and the cytoplasmic melanoma-associated antigen (cyt-MAA/LGALS3BP) are expressed in melanoma. Their serum levels are increased in melanoma patients and correlate with clinical outcome. We investigated whether these molecules can serve as prognostic markers for neuroblastoma (NB) patients. Expression of cyt-MAA and HMW-MAA was evaluated by flow cytometry in NB cell lines, patients’ neuroblasts (FI-NB), and short-term cultures of these latter cells (cNB). LGALS3BP gene expression was evaluated by RT–qPCR on FI-NB, cNB, and primary tumor specimens. Soluble HMW-MAA and cyt-MAA were tested by ELISA. Cyt-MAA and HMW-MAA were expressed in NB cell lines, cNB, and FI-NB samples. LGALS3BP gene expression was higher in primary tumors and cNB than in FI-NB samples. Soluble cyt-MAA, but not HMW-MAA, was detected in NB cell lines and cNBs supernatants. NB patients’ serum levels of both antigens were higher than those of the healthy children. High cyt-MAA serum levels at diagnosis associated with higher incidence of relapse, independently from other known risk factors. In conclusion, both HMW-MAA and cyt-MAA antigens, and LGALS3BP gene, were expressed by NB cell lines and patients’ neuroblasts, and both antigens’ serum levels were increased in NB patients. Elevated serum levels of cyt-MAA at diagnosis correlated with relapse, supporting that cyt-MAA may serve as early serological biomarker to individuate patients at higher risk of relapse that may require a more careful follow-up, after being validated in a larger cohort of patients at different time-points during follow-up. Given its immunogenicity, cyt-MAA may also be a potential target for NB immunotherapy.
PMCID: PMC3426043  PMID: 21660451
Cytoplasmic melanoma-associated antigen; Neuroblastoma; Clinical relapse; Serum biomarkers
3.  High Genomic Instability Predicts Survival in Metastatic High-Risk Neuroblastoma12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2012;14(9):823-832.
We aimed to identify novel molecular prognostic markers to better predict relapse risk estimate for children with high-risk (HR) metastatic neuroblastoma (NB). We performed genome- and/or transcriptome-wide analyses of 129 stage 4 HR NBs. Children older than 1 year of age were categorized as “short survivors” (dead of disease within 5 years from diagnosis) and “long survivors” (alive with an overall survival time ≥ 5 years). We reported that patients with less than three segmental copy number aberrations in their tumor represent a molecularly defined subgroup with a high survival probability within the current HR group of patients. The complex genomic pattern is a prognostic marker independent of NB-associated chromosomal aberrations, i.e., MYCN amplification, 1p and 11q losses, and 17q gain. Integrative analysis of genomic and expression signatures demonstrated that fatal outcome is mainly associated with loss of cell cycle control and deregulation of Rho guanosine triphosphates (GTPases) functioning in neuritogenesis. Tumors with MYCN amplification show a lower chromosome instability compared to MYCN single-copy NBs (P = .0008), dominated by 17q gain and 1p loss. Moreover, our results suggest that the MYCN amplification mainly drives disruption of neuronal differentiation and reduction of cell adhesion process involved in tumor invasion and metastasis. Further validation studies are warranted to establish this as a risk stratification for patients.
PMCID: PMC3459278  PMID: 23019414
4.  Bone Marrow-Infiltrating Human Neuroblastoma Cells Express High Levels of Calprotectin and HLA-G Proteins 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e29922.
Metastases in the bone marrow (BM) are grim prognostic factors in patients with neuroblastoma (NB). In spite of extensive analysis of primary tumor cells from high- and low-risk NB patients, a characterization of freshly isolated BM-infiltrating metastatic NB cells is still lacking. Our aim was to identify proteins specifically expressed by metastatic NB cells, that may be relevant for prognostic and therapeutic purposes. Sixty-six Italian children over 18 months of age, diagnosed with stage 4 NB, were included in the study. Metastatic NB cells were freshly isolated from patients' BM by positive immunomagnetic bead manipulation using anti-GD2 monoclonal antibody. Gene expression profiles were compared with those obtained from archived NB primary tumors from patients with 5y-follow-up. After validation by RT-qPCR, expression/secretion of the proteins encoded by the up-regulated genes in the BM-infiltrating NB cells was evaluated by flow cytometry and ELISA. Compared to primary tumor cells, BM-infiltrating NB cells down-modulated the expression of CX3CL1, AGT, ATP1A2 mRNAs, whereas they up-regulated several genes commonly expressed by various lineages of BM resident cells. BM-infiltrating NB cells expressed indeed the proteins encoded by the top-ranked genes, S100A8 and A9 (calprotectin), CD177 and CD3, and secreted the CXCL7 chemokine. BM-infiltrating NB cells also expressed CD271 and HLA-G. We have identified proteins specifically expressed by BM-infiltrating NB cells. Among them, calprotectin, a potent inflammatory protein, and HLA-G, endowed with tolerogenic properties facilitating tumor escape from host immune response, may represent novel biomarkers and/or targets for therapeutic intervention in high-risk NB patients.
PMCID: PMC3253802  PMID: 22253825
5.  Chromosomal aberrations and aneuploidy in oral potentially malignant lesions: distinctive features for tongue 
BMC Cancer  2011;11:445.
The mucosae of the oral cavity are different at the histological level but appear all equally exposed to common genotoxic agents. As a result of this exposure, changes in the mucosal epithelia may develop giving rise to Oral Potentially Malignant Lesions (OPMLs), which with time may in turn progress to Oral Squamous Cell Carcinomas (OSCCs). Therefore, much effort should be devoted to identify features able to predict the likeliness of progression associated with an OPML. Such features may be helpful in assisting the clinician to establish both appropriate therapies and follow-up schedules. Here, we report a pilot study that compared the occurrence of DNA aneuploidy and chromosomal copy number aberrations (CNAs) in the OPMLs from different oral anatomical subsites.
Samples from histologically diagnosed OPMLs were processed for high resolution DNA flow cytometry (hr DNA-FCM) in order to determine the relative DNA content expressed by the DNA index (DI). Additionally, array-Comparative Genomic Hybridization (a-CGH) analysis was performed on DNA obtained from diploid nuclei suspensions directly. When aneuploid nuclei were detected, these were physically separated from diploid nuclei on the base of their DI values by means of a DNA-FCM-Sorter in order to improve the a-CGH analysis.
Tongue OPMLs were more frequently associated with DNA aneuploidy and CNAs than OPMLs arising from all the other mucosal subsites.
We suggest that the follow-up and the management of the patients with tongue OPMLs should receive a distinctive special attention. Clearly, this hypothesis should be validated in a prospective clinical study.
PMCID: PMC3229618  PMID: 21995418
6.  Outcome Prediction of Children with Neuroblastoma using a Multigene Expression Signature, a Retrospective SIOPEN/COG/GPOH Study 
The lancet oncology  2009;10(7):663-671.
More accurate prognostic assessment of patients with neuroblastoma is required to improve the choice of risk-related therapy. The aim of this study is to develop and validate a gene expression signature for improved outcome prediction.
Fifty-nine genes were carefully selected based on an innovative data-mining strategy and profiled in the largest neuroblastoma patient series (n=579) to date using RT-qPCR starting from only 20 ng of RNA. A multigene expression signature was built using 30 training samples, tested on 313 test samples and subsequently validated in a blind study on an independent set of 236 additional tumours.
The signature accurately classifies patients with respect to overall and progression-free survival (p<0·0001). The signature has a performance, sensitivity, and specificity of 85·4% (95%CI: 77·7–93·2), 84·4% (95%CI: 66·5–94·1), and 86·5% (95%CI: 81·1–90·6), respectively to predict patient outcome. Multivariate analysis indicates that the signature is a significant independent predictor after controlling for currently used riskfactors. Patients with high molecular risk have a higher risk to die from disease and for relapse/progression than patients with low molecular risk (odds ratio of 19·32 (95%CI: 6·50–57·43) and 3·96 (95%CI: 1·97–7·97) for OS and PFS, respectively). Patients with increased risk for adverse outcome can also be identified within the current treatment groups demonstrating the potential of this signature for improved clinical management. These results were confirmed in the validation study in which the signature was also independently statistically significant in a model adjusted for MYCN status, age, INSS stage, ploidy, INPC grade of differentiation, and MKI. The high patient/gene ratio (579/59) underlies the observed statistical power and robustness.
A 59-gene expression signature predicts outcome of neuroblastoma patients with high accuracy. The signature is an independent risk predictor, identifying patients with increased risk in the current clinical risk groups. The applied method and signature is suitable for routine lab testing and ready for evaluation in prospective studies.
The Belgian Foundation Against Cancer, found of public interest (project SCIE2006-25), the Children Cancer Fund Ghent, the Belgian Society of Paediatric Haematology and Oncology, the Belgian Kid’s Fund and the Fondation Nuovo-Soldati (JV), the Fund for Scientific Research Flanders (KDP, JH), the Fund for Scientific Research Flanders (grant number: G•0198•08), the Institute for the Promotion of Innovation by Science and Technology in Flanders, Strategisch basisonderzoek (IWT-SBO 60848), the Fondation Fournier Majoie pour l’Innovation, the Instituto Carlos III,RD 06/0020/0102 Spain, the Italian Neuroblastoma Foundation, the European Community under the FP6 (project: STREP: EET-pipeline, number: 037260), and the Belgian program of Interuniversity Poles of Attraction, initiated by the Belgian State, Prime Minister's Office, Science Policy Programming.
PMCID: PMC3045079  PMID: 19515614
7.  Transcribed-ultra conserved region expression profiling from low-input total RNA 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:149.
Ultra Conserved Regions (UCRs) are a class of 481 noncoding sequences located in both intra- and inter-genic regions of the genome. The recent findings that they are significantly altered in adult chronic lymphocytic leukemias, carcinomas, and pediatric neuroblastomas lead to the hypothesis that UCRs may play a role in tumorigenesis.
We present a novel application of Ribo-SPIA™ isothermal linear amplification of minute RNA quantities for quantifying Transcribed-UCR (T-UCR) expression by quantitative PCR. Direct comparison of non-amplified with amplified cDNA in two neuroblastoma cell lines showed that the amplification approach increases sensitivity and repeatability in T-UCR quantification. It is noteworthy that the Ribo-SPIA™ step allowed us to analyze all 481 T-UCRs by using 150 ng of RNA, while introducing a minimal bias and preserving the magnitude of relative expression. Only the less abundant T-UCRs have high intra-assay variability, consistently with the Poisson distribution statistics and stochastic effects on PCR repeatability.
We demonstrated that the quantification procedure shown here is an accurate and reliable technique for genome-wide non coding gene (i.e., UCRs) profiling using small amounts of RNA. This issue is particularly important because studies of transcription regulation are increasingly conducted in small homogeneous samples, such as laser capture microdissected or sorted cell populations.
PMCID: PMC2838852  PMID: 20199688
8.  Transcribed-ultra conserved region expression is associated with outcome in high-risk neuroblastoma 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:441.
Neuroblastoma is the most common, pediatric, extra-cranial, malignant solid tumor. Despite multimodal therapeutic protocols, outcome for children with a high-risk clinical phenotype remains poor, with long-term survival still less than 40%. Hereby, we evaluated the potential of non-coding RNA expression to predict outcome in high-risk, stage 4 neuroblastoma.
We analyzed expression of 481 Ultra Conserved Regions (UCRs) by reverse transcription-quantitative real-time PCR and of 723 microRNAs by microarrays in 34 high-risk, stage 4 neuroblastoma patients.
First, the comparison of 8 short- versus 12 long-term survivors showed that 54 UCRs were significantly (P < 0.0491) over-expressed in the former group. For 48 Ultra Conserved Region (UCRs) the expression levels above the cut-off values defined by ROC curves were strongly associated with good-outcome (OS: 0.0001

Our pilot study suggests that a deregulation of the microRNA/T-UCR network may play an important role in the pathogenesis of neuroblastoma. After further validation on a larger independent set of samples, such findings may be applied as the first T-UCR prognostic signature for high-risk neuroblastoma patients.
PMCID: PMC2804711  PMID: 20003513
BMC Cancer  2009;9:436.
TrkA (encoded by NTRK1 gene), the high-affinity tyrosine kinase receptor for neurotrophins, is involved in neural crest cell differentiation. Its expression has been reported to be associated with a favourable prognosis in neuroblastoma. Therefore, the entire coding sequence of NTRK1 gene has been analysed in order to identify mutations and/or polymorphisms which may alter TrkA receptor expression.
DNA was extracted from neuroblastomas of 55 Polish and 114 Italian patients and from peripheral blood leukocytes of 158 healthy controls. Denaturing High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (DHPLC) and Single-Strand Conformation Polymorphism (SSCP) analysis were used to screen for sequence variants. Genetic changes were confirmed by direct sequencing and correlated with biological and clinical data.
Three previously reported and nine new single nucleotide polymorphisms were detected. c.1810C>T polymorphism present in 8.7% of cases was found to be an independent marker of disease recurrence (OR = 13.3; p = 0.009) associated with lower survival rates (HR = 4.45 p = 0.041). c.1810C>T polymorphism's unfavourable prognostic value was most significant in patients under 18 months of age with no MYCN amplification (HR = 26; p = 0.008). In-silico analysis of the c.1810C>T polymorphism suggests that the substitution of the corresponding amino acid residue within the conservative region of the tyrosine kinase domain might theoretically interfere with the functioning of the TrkA protein.
NTRK1 c.1810C>T polymorphism appears to be a new independent prognostic factor of poor outcome in neuroblastoma, especially in children under 18 months of age with no MYCN amplification.
PMCID: PMC2800120  PMID: 20003389

Results 1-9 (9)