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1.  CASP8 SNP D302H (rs1045485) Is Associated with Worse Survival in MYCN-Amplified Neuroblastoma Patients 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e114696.
Neuroblastoma is a pediatric cancer that exhibits a wide clinical spectrum ranging from spontaneous regression in low-risk patients to fatal disease in high-risk patients. The identification of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) may help explain the heterogeneity of neuroblastoma and assist in identifying patients at higher risk for poor survival. SNPs in the TP53 pathway are of special importance, as several studies have reported associations between TP53 pathway SNPs and cancer. Of note, less than 2% of neuroblastoma tumors have a TP53 mutation at diagnosis.
Patients and Methods
We selected 21 of the most frequently studied SNPs in the TP53 pathway and evaluated their association with outcome in 500 neuroblastoma patients using TaqMan allelic discrimination assays.
Results and Conclusion
We investigated the impact of 21 SNPs on overall survival, event-free survival, age at diagnosis, MYCN status, and stage of the disease in 500 neuroblastoma patients. A missense SNP in exon 10 of the CASP8 gene SNP D302H was associated with worse overall and event-free survival in patients with MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma tumors.
PMCID: PMC4263607  PMID: 25502557
2.  MIBG scans in patients with stage 4 neuroblastoma reveal two metastatic patterns, one is associated with MYCN amplification and in MYCN-amplified tumours correlates with a better prognosis 
The aim of this study was to find clinically relevant MIBG-avid metastatic patterns in patients with newly diagnosed stage 4 neuroblastoma.
Diagnostic 123I-MIBG scans from 249 patients (123 from a European and 126 from the COG cohort) were assessed for metastatic spread in 14 body segments and the form of the lesions: “focal” (clear margins distinguishable from adjacent background) or “diffuse” (indistinct margins, dispersed throughout the body segment). The total numbers of diffuse and focal lesions were recorded. Patients were then categorized as having lesions exclusively focal, lesions more focal than diffuse, lesions more diffuse than focal, or lesions exclusively diffuse.
Diffuse lesions affected a median of seven body segments and focal lesions a median of two body segments (P < 0.001, both cohorts). Patients with a focal pattern had a median of 2 affected body segments and those with a diffuse pattern a median of 11 affected body segments (P < 0.001, both cohorts). Thus, two MIBG-avid metastatic patterns emerged: “limited-focal” and “extensive-diffuse”. The median numbers of affected body segments in MYCN-amplified (MNA) tumours were 5 (European cohort) and 4 (COG cohort) compared to 9 and 11, respectively, in single-copy MYCN (MYCNsc) tumours (P < 0.001). Patients with exclusively focal metastases were more likely to have a MNA tumour (60 % and 70 %, respectively) than patients with the other types of metastases (23 % and 28 %, respectively; P < 0.001). In a multivariate Cox regression analysis, focal metastases were associated with a better event-free and overall survival than the other types of metastases in patients with MNA tumours in the COG cohort (P < 0.01).
Two metastatic patterns were found: a “limited and focal” pattern found mainly in patients with MNA neuroblastoma that correlated with prognosis, and an “extensive and diffuse” pattern found mainly in patients with MYCNsc neuroblastoma.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00259-014-2909-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4315489  PMID: 25267348
Neuroblastoma; MIBG scan; Metastatic patterns; Metastases; Outcome
3.  miRNA Expression Profiling Enables Risk Stratification in Archived and Fresh Neuroblastoma Tumor Samples 
More accurate assessment of prognosis is important to further improve the choice of risk-related therapy in neuroblastoma (NB) patients. In this study, we aimed to establish and validate a prognostic miRNA signature for children with NB and tested it in both fresh frozen and archived formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) samples.
Experimental Design
Four hundred-thirty human mature miRNAs were profiled in two patient subgroups with maximally divergent clinical courses. Univariate logistic regression analysis was used to select miRNAs correlating with NB patient survival. A 25-miRNA gene signature was built using 51 training samples, tested on 179 test samples, and validated on an independent set of 304 fresh frozen tumor samples and 75 archived FFPE samples.
The 25-miRNA signature significantly discriminates the test patients with respect to progression-free and overall survival (P < 0.0001), both in the overall population and in the cohort of high-risk patients. Multivariate analysis indicates that the miRNA signature is an independent predictor of patient survival after controlling for current risk factors. The results were confirmed in an external validation set. In contrast to a previously published mRNA classifier, the 25-miRNA signature was found to be predictive for patient survival in a set of 75 FFPE neuroblastoma samples.
In this study, we present the largest NB miRNA expression study so far, including more than 500 NB patients. We established and validated a robust miRNA classifier, able to identify a cohort of high-risk NB patients at greater risk for adverse outcome using both fresh frozen and archived material.
PMCID: PMC4008338  PMID: 22031095
4.  Living related liver transplantation in an adult patient with hepatocellular adenoma and carcinoma 13 years after bone marrow transplantation for Fanconi anemia: a case report 
Fanconi anemia is an inherited bone marrow failure syndrome, characterised by failing DNA repair. Hematopoetic stem cell transplantation, known to be curative for the bone marrow failure, does neither prevent or cure other manifestations such as the development of malignancies. We describe a 26-year-old male patient with known Fanconi anemia and Marfan syndrome who in 1994 underwent a successful bone marrow transplantation of stem cells from his HLA-identical sister. In 2006, three hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) lesions in the liver were detected and promptly resected. The resection specimen contained 3 lesions, all showing activation of the beta-catenin pathway: a well differentiated steatotic HCC with remnants of the underlying adenoma from which it arose, an adenoma with small foci of well differentiated HCC and a cholestatic adenoma. Known risk factors for developing HCC include Fanconi anemia itself and the use of androgens (oxymetholone) for a period of 3 years preceeding transplantation. Because of the increased risk of developing additional HCC’s, liver transplantation was proposed, taking into account that immunosuppression increases the risk of other malignancies. By using part of the liver of the HLA-identical sister, already acting as bone marrow donor 13 years before, immunosuppression could be avoided.
A left lobe liver transplantation was performed without immediate complications for donor and acceptor on July 2, 2007. Nine months after liver transplantation the recipient developed an anastomotic biliary stricture that had to be dilated by percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography. Two months later however, the stenosis recurred, necessitating a surgical reanastomosis (hepaticojejunostomy). Five years after liver transplantation the patient is still doing well.
This case report is twofold special being the first case reporting Fanconi anemia linked to Marfan syndrome and being the first reported case of Fanconi anemia who was treated for hepatocellular carcinoma by liver transplantation from a living related HLA-identical donor without the use of immunosuppression.
PMCID: PMC3888060  PMID: 23675868
Fanconi anemia; bone marrow transplantation; liver transplantation; hepatocellular adenoma/carcinoma
5.  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.
PMCID: PMC3537730  PMID: 23308108
6.  Genome-wide promoter methylation analysis in neuroblastoma identifies prognostic methylation biomarkers 
Genome Biology  2012;13(10):R95.
Accurate outcome prediction in neuroblastoma, which is necessary to enable the optimal choice of risk-related therapy, remains a challenge. To improve neuroblastoma patient stratification, this study aimed to identify prognostic tumor DNA methylation biomarkers.
To identify genes silenced by promoter methylation, we first applied two independent genome-wide methylation screening methodologies to eight neuroblastoma cell lines. Specifically, we used re-expression profiling upon 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (DAC) treatment and massively parallel sequencing after capturing with a methyl-CpG-binding domain (MBD-seq). Putative methylation markers were selected from DAC-upregulated genes through a literature search and an upfront methylation-specific PCR on 20 primary neuroblastoma tumors, as well as through MBD- seq in combination with publicly available neuroblastoma tumor gene expression data. This yielded 43 candidate biomarkers that were subsequently tested by high-throughput methylation-specific PCR on an independent cohort of 89 primary neuroblastoma tumors that had been selected for risk classification and survival. Based on this analysis, methylation of KRT19, FAS, PRPH, CNR1, QPCT, HIST1H3C, ACSS3 and GRB10 was found to be associated with at least one of the classical risk factors, namely age, stage or MYCN status. Importantly, HIST1H3C and GNAS methylation was associated with overall and/or event-free survival.
This study combines two genome-wide methylation discovery methodologies and is the most extensive validation study in neuroblastoma performed thus far. We identified several novel prognostic DNA methylation markers and provide a basis for the development of a DNA methylation-based prognostic classifier in neuroblastoma.
PMCID: PMC3491423  PMID: 23034519
7.  N-Cadherin in Neuroblastoma Disease: Expression and Clinical Significance 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31206.
One of the first and most important steps in the metastatic cascade is the loss of cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions. N-cadherin, a crucial mediator of homotypic and heterotypic cell-cell interactions, might play a central role in the metastasis of neuroblastoma (NB), a solid tumor of neuroectodermal origin. Using Reverse Transcription Quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR), Western blot, immunocytochemistry and Tissue MicroArrays (TMA) we demonstrate the expression of N-cadherin in neuroblastoma tumors and cell lines. All neuroblastic tumors (n = 356) and cell lines (n = 10) expressed various levels of the adhesion protein. The N-cadherin mRNA expression was significantly lower in tumor samples from patients suffering metastatic disease. Treatment of NB cell lines with the N-cadherin blocking peptide ADH-1 (Exherin, Adherex Technologies Inc.), strongly inhibited tumor cell proliferation in vitro by inducing apoptosis. Our results suggest that N-cadherin signaling may play a role in neuroblastoma disease, marking involvement of metastasis and determining neuroblastoma cell viability.
PMCID: PMC3280274  PMID: 22355346
8.  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
9.  Identification of ALK as the Major Familial Neuroblastoma Predisposition Gene 
Nature  2008;455(7215):930-935.
Survival rates for the childhood cancer neuroblastoma have not substantively improved despite dramatic escalation in chemotherapy intensity. Like most human cancers, this embryonal malignancy can be inherited, but the genetic etiology of familial and sporadically occurring neuroblastoma was largely unknown. Here we show that germline mutations in the anaplastic lymphoma kinase gene (ALK) explain the majority of hereditary neuroblastomas, and that activating mutations can also be somatically acquired. We first identified a significant linkage signal at the short arm of chromosome 2 (maximum nonparametric LOD=4.23 at rs1344063) using a whole-genome scan in neuroblastoma pedigrees. Resequencing of regional candidate genes identified three separate missense mutations in the tyrosine kinase domain of ALK (G1128A, R1192P and R1275Q) that segregated with the disease in eight separate families. Examination of 491 sporadically occurring human neuroblastoma samples showed that the ALK locus was gained in 22.8%, and highly amplified in an additional 3.3%, and that these aberrations were highly associated with death from disease (P=0.0003). Resequencing of 194 high-risk neuroblastoma samples showed somatically acquired mutations within the tyrosine kinase domain in 12.4%. Nine of the ten mutations map to critical regions of the kinase domain and were predicted to be oncogenic drivers with high probability. Mutations resulted in constitutive phosphorylation consistent with activation, and targeted knockdown of ALK mRNA resulted in profound growth inhibition of 4 of 4 cell lines harboring mutant or amplified ALK, as well as 2 of 6 wild type for ALK. Our results demonstrate that heritable mutations of ALK are the major cause of familial neuroblastoma, and that germline or acquired activation of this cell surface kinase is a tractable therapeutic target for this lethal pediatric malignancy.
PMCID: PMC2672043  PMID: 18724359
10.  CADM1 is a strong neuroblastoma candidate gene that maps within a 3.72 Mb critical region of loss on 11q23 
BMC Cancer  2008;8:173.
Recurrent loss of part of the long arm of chromosome 11 is a well established hallmark of a subtype of aggressive neuroblastomas. Despite intensive mapping efforts to localize the culprit 11q tumour suppressor gene, this search has been unsuccessful thus far as no sufficiently small critical region could be delineated for selection of candidate genes.
To refine the critical region of 11q loss, the chromosome 11 status of 100 primary neuroblastoma tumours and 29 cell lines was analyzed using a BAC array containing a chromosome 11 tiling path. For the genes mapping within our refined region of loss, meta-analysis on published neuroblastoma mRNA gene expression datasets was performed for candidate gene selection. The DNA methylation status of the resulting candidate gene was determined using re-expression experiments by treatment of neuroblastoma cells with the demethylating agent 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine and bisulphite sequencing.
Two small critical regions of loss within 11q23 at chromosomal band 11q23.1-q23.2 (1.79 Mb) and 11q23.2-q23.3 (3.72 Mb) were identified. In a first step towards further selection of candidate neuroblastoma tumour suppressor genes, we performed a meta-analysis on published expression profiles of 692 neuroblastoma tumours. Integration of the resulting candidate gene list with expression data of neuroblastoma progenitor cells pinpointed CADM1 as a compelling candidate gene. Meta-analysis indicated that CADM1 expression has prognostic significance and differential expression for the gene was noted in unfavourable neuroblastoma versus normal neuroblasts. Methylation analysis provided no evidence for a two-hit mechanism in 11q deleted cell lines.
Our study puts CADM1 forward as a strong candidate neuroblastoma suppressor gene. Further functional studies are warranted to elucidate the role of CADM1 in neuroblastoma development and to investigate the possibility of CADM1 haploinsufficiency in neuroblastoma.
PMCID: PMC2442116  PMID: 18559103
11.  A Constitutional Translocation t(1;17)(p36.2;q11.2) in a Neuroblastoma Patient Disrupts the Human NBPF1 and ACCN1 Genes 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(5):e2207.
The human 1p36 region is deleted in many different types of tumors, and so it probably harbors one or more tumor suppressor genes. In a Belgian neuroblastoma patient, a constitutional balanced translocation t(1;17)(p36.2;q11.2) may have led to the development of the tumor by disrupting or activating a gene. Here, we report the cloning of both translocation breakpoints and the identification of a novel gene that is disrupted by this translocation. This gene, named NBPF1 for Neuroblastoma BreakPoint Family member 1, belongs to a recently described gene family encoding highly similar proteins, the functions of which are unknown. The translocation truncates NBPF1 and gives rise to two chimeric transcripts of NBPF1 sequences fused to sequences derived from chromosome 17. On chromosome 17, the translocation disrupts one of the isoforms of ACCN1, a potential glioma tumor suppressor gene. Expression of the NBPF family in neuroblastoma cell lines is highly variable, but it is decreased in cell lines that have a deletion of chromosome 1p. More importantly, expression profiling of the NBPF1 gene showed that its expression is significantly lower in cell lines with heterozygous NBPF1 loss than in cell lines with a normal 1p chromosome. Meta-analysis of the expression of NBPF and ACCN1 in neuroblastoma tumors indicates a role for the NBPF genes and for ACCN1 in tumor aggressiveness. Additionally, DLD1 cells with inducible NBPF1 expression showed a marked decrease of clonal growth in a soft agar assay. The disruption of both NBPF1 and ACCN1 genes in this neuroblastoma patient indicates that these genes might suppress development of neuroblastoma and possibly other tumor types.
PMCID: PMC2386287  PMID: 18493581
12.  Correction: Human fetal neuroblast and neuroblastoma transcriptome analysis confirms neuroblast origin and highlights neuroblastoma candidate genes 
Genome Biology  2007;8(1):401.
A correction to Human fetal neuroblast and neuroblastoma transcriptome analysis confirms neuroblast origin and highlights neuroblastoma candidate genes by K De Preter, J Vandesompele, P Heimann, N Yigit, S Beckman, A Schramm, A Eggert, RL Stallings, Y Benoit, M Renard, A De Paepe, G Laureys, S Påhlman and F Speleman. Genome Biology 2006 7:R84
PMCID: PMC1839119
13.  Human fetal neuroblast and neuroblastoma transcriptome analysis confirms neuroblast origin and highlights neuroblastoma candidate genes 
Genome Biology  2006;7(9):R84.
Transcriptome profiling of neuroblasts and neuroblastoma tumor cells provides strong support for a neuroblast origin of neuroblastoma and highlights new candidate neuroblastoma genes
Neuroblastoma tumor cells are assumed to originate from primitive neuroblasts giving rise to the sympathetic nervous system. Because these precursor cells are not detectable in postnatal life, their transcription profile has remained inaccessible for comparative data mining strategies in neuroblastoma. This study provides the first genome-wide mRNA expression profile of these human fetal sympathetic neuroblasts. To this purpose, small islets of normal neuroblasts were isolated by laser microdissection from human fetal adrenal glands.
Expression of catecholamine metabolism genes, and neuronal and neuroendocrine markers in the neuroblasts indicated that the proper cells were microdissected. The similarities in expression profile between normal neuroblasts and malignant neuroblastomas provided strong evidence for the neuroblast origin hypothesis of neuroblastoma. Next, supervised feature selection was used to identify the genes that are differentially expressed in normal neuroblasts versus neuroblastoma tumors. This approach efficiently sifted out genes previously reported in neuroblastoma expression profiling studies; most importantly, it also highlighted a series of genes and pathways previously not mentioned in neuroblastoma biology but that were assumed to be involved in neuroblastoma pathogenesis.
This unique dataset adds power to ongoing and future gene expression studies in neuroblastoma and will facilitate the identification of molecular targets for novel therapies. In addition, this neuroblast transcriptome resource could prove useful for the further study of human sympathoadrenal biogenesis.
PMCID: PMC1794547  PMID: 16989664
14.  No evidence for involvement of SDHD in neuroblastoma pathogenesis 
BMC Cancer  2004;4:55.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC517501  PMID: 15331017

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