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1.  Breakpoint Features of Genomic Rearrangements in Neuroblastoma with Unbalanced Translocations and Chromothripsis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72182.
Neuroblastoma is a pediatric cancer of the peripheral nervous system in which structural chromosome aberrations are emblematic of aggressive tumors. In this study, we performed an in-depth analysis of somatic rearrangements in two neuroblastoma cell lines and two primary tumors using paired-end sequencing of mate-pair libraries and RNA-seq. The cell lines presented with typical genetic alterations of neuroblastoma and the two tumors belong to the group of neuroblastoma exhibiting a profile of chromothripsis. Inter and intra-chromosomal rearrangements were identified in the four samples, allowing in particular characterization of unbalanced translocations at high resolution. Using complementary experiments, we further characterized 51 rearrangements at the base pair resolution that revealed 59 DNA junctions. In a subset of cases, complex rearrangements were observed with templated insertion of fragments of nearby sequences. Although we did not identify known particular motifs in the local environment of the breakpoints, we documented frequent microhomologies at the junctions in both chromothripsis and non-chromothripsis associated breakpoints. RNA-seq experiments confirmed expression of several predicted chimeric genes and genes with disrupted exon structure including ALK, NBAS, FHIT, PTPRD and ODZ4. Our study therefore indicates that both non-homologous end joining-mediated repair and replicative processes may account for genomic rearrangements in neuroblastoma. RNA-seq analysis allows the identification of the subset of abnormal transcripts expressed from genomic rearrangements that may be involved in neuroblastoma oncogenesis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072182
PMCID: PMC3753337  PMID: 23991058
2.  ALK germline mutations in patients with neuroblastoma: a rare and weakly penetrant syndrome 
Neuroblastic tumours may occur in a predisposition context. Two main genes are involved: PHOX2B, observed in familial cases and frequently associated with other neurocristopathies (Ondine's and Hirschsprung's disease); and ALK, mostly in familial tumours. We have assessed the frequency of mutations of these two genes in patients with a presumable higher risk of predisposition. We sequenced both genes in 26 perinatal cases (prebirth and <1 month of age, among which 10 were multifocal), 16 multifocal postnatal (>1 month) cases, 3 pairs of affected relatives and 8 patients with multiple malignancies. The whole coding sequences of the two genes were analysed in tumour and/or constitutional DNAs. We found three ALK germline mutations, all in a context of multifocal tumours. Two mutations (T1151R and R1192P) were inherited and shared by several unaffected patients, thus illustrating an incomplete penetrance. Younger age at tumour onset did not seem to offer a relevant selection criterion for ALK analyses. Conversely, multifocal tumours might be the most to benefit from the genetic screening. Finally, no PHOX2B germline mutation was found in this series. In conclusion, ALK deleterious mutations are rare events in patients with a high probability of predisposition. Other predisposing genes remain to be discovered.
doi:10.1038/ejhg.2011.195
PMCID: PMC3283184  PMID: 22071890
ALK; neuroblastoma; predisposition
3.  Focal DNA Copy Number Changes in Neuroblastoma Target MYCN Regulated Genes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e52321.
Neuroblastoma is an embryonic tumor arising from immature sympathetic nervous system cells. Recurrent genomic alterations include MYCN and ALK amplification as well as recurrent patterns of gains and losses of whole or large partial chromosome segments. A recent whole genome sequencing effort yielded no frequently recurring mutations in genes other than those affecting ALK. However, the study further stresses the importance of DNA copy number alterations in this disease, in particular for genes implicated in neuritogenesis. Here we provide additional evidence for the importance of focal DNA copy number gains and losses, which are predominantly observed in MYCN amplified tumors. A focal 5 kb gain encompassing the MYCN regulated miR-17∼92 cluster as sole gene was detected in a neuroblastoma cell line and further analyses of the array CGH data set demonstrated enrichment for other MYCN target genes in focal gains and amplifications. Next we applied an integrated genomics analysis to prioritize MYCN down regulated genes mediated by MYCN driven miRNAs within regions of focal heterozygous or homozygous deletion. We identified RGS5, a negative regulator of G-protein signaling implicated in vascular normalization, invasion and metastasis, targeted by a focal homozygous deletion, as a new MYCN target gene, down regulated through MYCN activated miRNAs. In addition, we expand the miR-17∼92 regulatory network controlling TGFß signaling in neuroblastoma with the ring finger protein 11 encoding gene RNF11, which was previously shown to be targeted by the miR-17∼92 member miR-19b. Taken together, our data indicate that focal DNA copy number imbalances in neuroblastoma (1) target genes that are implicated in MYCN signaling, possibly selected to reinforce MYCN oncogene addiction and (2) serve as a resource for identifying new molecular targets for treatment.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052321
PMCID: PMC3537730  PMID: 23308108
4.  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.
BACKGROUND
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.
METHODS
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.
FINDINGS
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.
INTERPRETATION
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.
FUNDING
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.
doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(09)70154-8
PMCID: PMC3045079  PMID: 19515614
5.  Neurotrophin-3 production promotes human neuroblastoma cell survival by inhibiting TrkC-induced apoptosis 
Tropomyosin-related kinase receptor C (TrkC) is a neurotrophin receptor with tyrosine kinase activity that was expected to be oncogenic. However, it has several characteristics of a tumor suppressor: its expression in tumors has often been associated with good prognosis; and it was recently demonstrated to be a dependence receptor, transducing different positive signals in the presence of ligand but inducing apoptosis in the absence of ligand. Here we show that the TrkC ligand neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) is upregulated in a large fraction of aggressive human neuroblastomas (NBs) and that it blocks TrkC-induced apoptosis of human NB cell lines, consistent with the idea that TrkC is a dependence receptor. Functionally, both siRNA knockdown of NT-3 expression and incubation with a TrkC-specific blocking antibody triggered apoptosis in human NB cell lines. Importantly, disruption of the NT-3 autocrine loop in malignant human neuroblasts triggered in vitro NB cell death and inhibited tumor growth and metastasis in both a chick and a mouse xenograft model. Thus, we believe that our data suggest that NT-3/TrkC disruption is a putative alternative targeted therapeutic strategy for the treatment of NB.
doi:10.1172/JCI41013
PMCID: PMC2827960  PMID: 20160348
6.  Netrin-1 acts as a survival factor for aggressive neuroblastoma 
Neuroblastoma (NB), the most frequent solid tumor of early childhood, is diagnosed as a disseminated disease in >60% of cases, and several lines of evidence support the resistance to apoptosis as a prerequisite for NB progression. We show that autocrine production of netrin-1, a multifunctional laminin-related molecule, conveys a selective advantage in tumor growth and dissemination in aggressive NB, as it blocks the proapoptotic activity of the UNC5H netrin-1 dependence receptors. We show that such netrin-1 up-regulation is a potential marker for poor prognosis in stage 4S and, more generally, in NB stage 4 diagnosed infants. Moreover, we propose that interference with the netrin-1 autocrine loop in malignant neuroblasts could represent an alternative therapeutic strategy, as disruption of this loop triggers in vitro NB cell death and inhibits NB metastasis in avian and mouse models.
doi:10.1084/jem.20082299
PMCID: PMC2715117  PMID: 19349462
7.  Effect of bortezomib on human neuroblastoma: analysis of molecular mechanisms involved in cytotoxicity 
Molecular Cancer  2008;7:50.
Background
Bortezomib, a specific and selective inhibitor of the 26S proteasome with antitumor activity against a wide range of malignancies, has been approved for the treatment of relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma and other cancers. Recently, bortezomib has been identified as an effective inhibitor of neuroblastoma cell growth and angiogenesis.
Results
In the present study, we demonstrate that some neuroblastoma cell lines are actually resistant to bortezomib. We have sought to characterize the main pathway by which proteasome inhibition leads to apoptosis, and to define the mechanism responsible for resistance to bortezomib in neuroblastoma cells. Our results show that SB202190, an inhibitor of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) p38, enhances the ability of bortezomib to induce apoptosis by preventing the phosphorylation of the heat shock protein (HSP) 27.
Conclusion
This study opens the way to further clinical investigations and suggests a potential benefit of using a combination of bortezomib with an inhibitor of p38 MAPK for the treatment of neuroblastoma relapse.
doi:10.1186/1476-4598-7-50
PMCID: PMC2442611  PMID: 18534018
8.  No evidence for involvement of SDHD in neuroblastoma pathogenesis 
BMC Cancer  2004;4:55.
Background
Deletions in the long arm of chromosome 11 are observed in a subgroup of advanced stage neuroblastomas with poor outcome. The deleted region harbours the tumour suppressor gene SDHD that is frequently mutated in paraganglioma and pheochromocytoma, which are, like neuroblastoma, tumours originating from the neural crest. In this study, we sought for evidence for involvement of SDHD in neuroblastoma.
Methods
SDHD was investigated on the genome, transcriptome and proteome level using mutation screening, methylation specific PCR, real-time quantitative PCR based homozygous deletion screening and mRNA expression profiling, immunoblotting, functional protein analysis and ultrastructural imaging of the mitochondria.
Results
Analysis at the genomic level of 67 tumour samples and 37 cell lines revealed at least 2 bona-fide mutations in cell lines without allelic loss at 11q23: a 4bp-deletion causing skip of exon 3 resulting in a premature stop codon in cell line N206, and a Y93C mutation in cell line NMB located in a region affected by germline SDHD mutations causing hereditary paraganglioma. No evidence for hypermethylation of the SDHD promotor region was observed, nor could we detect homozygous deletions. Interestingly, SDHD mRNA expression was significantly reduced in SDHD mutated cell lines and cell lines with 11q allelic loss as compared to both cell lines without 11q allelic loss and normal foetal neuroblast cells. However, protein analyses and assessment of mitochondrial morphology presently do not provide clues as to the possible effect of reduced SDHD expression on the neuroblastoma tumour phenotype.
Conclusions
Our study provides no indications for 2-hit involvement of SDHD in the pathogenesis of neuroblastoma. Also, although a haplo-insufficient mechanism for SDHD involvement in advanced stage neuroblastoma could be considered, the present data do not provide consistent evidence for this hypothesis.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-4-55
PMCID: PMC517501  PMID: 15331017

Results 1-8 (8)