ABSTRACT: Until recently, the genetic basis of neuroblastoma, a heterogeneous neoplasm arising from the developing sympathetic nervous system, remained undefined. The discovery of gain-of-function mutations in the ALK receptor tyrosine kinase gene as the major cause of familial neuroblastoma led to the discovery of identical somatic mutations and rapid advancement of ALK as a tractable therapeutic target. Inactivating mutations in a master regulator of neural crest development, PHOX2B, have also been identified in a subset of familial neuroblastomas. Other high penetrance susceptibility alleles likely exist, but together these heritable mutations account for less than 10% of neuroblastoma cases. A genome-wide association study of a large neuroblastoma cohort identified common and rare polymorphisms highly associated with the disease. Ongoing resequencing efforts aim to further define the genetic landscape of neuroblastoma.
Project description:Neuroblastoma is a childhood cancer that can be inherited, but the genetic aetiology is largely unknown. Here we show that germline mutations in the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene explain most hereditary neuroblastomas, and that activating mutations can also be somatically acquired. We first identified a significant linkage signal at chromosome bands 2p23-24 using a whole-genome scan in neuroblastoma pedigrees. Resequencing of regional candidate genes identified three separate germline missense mutations in the tyrosine kinase domain of ALK that segregated with the disease in eight separate families. Resequencing in 194 high-risk neuroblastoma samples showed somatically acquired mutations in the tyrosine kinase domain in 12.4% of samples. Nine of the ten mutations map to critical regions of the kinase domain and were predicted, with high probability, to be oncogenic drivers. Mutations resulted in constitutive phosphorylation, and targeted knockdown of ALK messenger RNA resulted in profound inhibition of growth in all cell lines harbouring mutant or amplified ALK, as well as in two out of six wild-type cell lines for ALK. Our results demonstrate that heritable mutations of ALK are the main cause of familial neuroblastoma, and that germline or acquired activation of this cell-surface kinase is a tractable therapeutic target for this lethal paediatric malignancy.
Project description:Neuroblastoma, a malignancy of the developing peripheral nervous system that affects infants and young children, is a complex genetic disease. Over the past two decades, significant progress has been made toward understanding the genetic determinants that predispose to this often lethal childhood cancer. Approximately 1-2% of neuroblastomas are inherited in an autosomal dominant fashion and a combination of co-morbidity and linkage studies has led to the identification of germline mutations in PHOX2B and ALK as the major genetic contributors to this familial neuroblastoma subset. The genetic basis of "sporadic" neuroblastoma is being studied through a large genome-wide association study (GWAS). These efforts have led to the discovery of many common susceptibility alleles, each with modest effect size, associated with the development and progression of sporadic neuroblastoma. More recently, next-generation sequencing efforts have expanded the list of potential neuroblastoma-predisposing mutations to include rare germline variants with a predicted larger effect size. The evolving characterization of neuroblastoma's genetic basis has led to a deeper understanding of the molecular events driving tumorigenesis, more precise risk stratification and prognostics and novel therapeutic strategies. This review details the contemporary understanding of neuroblastoma's genetic predisposition, including recent advances and discusses ongoing efforts to address gaps in our knowledge regarding this malignancy's complex genetic underpinnings.
Project description:Anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) is a receptor tyrosine kinase aberrantly expressed in neuroblastoma, a devastating pediatric cancer of the sympathetic nervous system. Germline and somatically acquired ALK aberrations induce increased autophosphorylation, constitutive ALK activation and increased downstream signaling. Thus, ALK is a tractable therapeutic target in neuroblastoma, likely to be susceptible to both small-molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors and therapeutic antibodies-as has been shown for other receptor tyrosine kinases in malignancies such as breast and lung cancer. Small-molecule inhibitors of ALK are currently being studied in the clinic, but common ALK mutations in neuroblastoma appear to show de novo insensitivity, arguing that complementary therapeutic approaches must be developed. We therefore hypothesized that antibody targeting of ALK may be a relevant strategy for the majority of neuroblastoma patients likely to have ALK-positive tumors. We show here that an antagonistic ALK antibody inhibits cell growth and induces in vitro antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity of human neuroblastoma-derived cell lines. Cytotoxicity was induced in cell lines harboring either wild type or mutated forms of ALK. Treatment of neuroblastoma cells with the dual Met/ALK inhibitor crizotinib sensitized cells to antibody-induced growth inhibition by promoting cell surface accumulation of ALK and thus increasing the accessibility of antigen for antibody binding. These data support the concept of ALK-targeted immunotherapy as a highly promising therapeutic strategy for neuroblastomas with mutated or wild-type ALK.
Project description:Despite improvements in cancer therapies in the past 50 years, neuroblastoma remains a devastating clinical problem and a leading cause of childhood cancer deaths. Advances in treatments for children with high-risk neuroblastoma have, until recently, involved addition of cytotoxic therapy to dose-intensive regimens. In this era of targeted therapies, substantial efforts have been made to identify optimal targets for different types of cancer. The discovery of hereditary and somatic activating mutations in the oncogene ALK has now placed neuroblastoma among other cancers, such as melanoma and non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which benefit from therapies with oncogene-specific small-molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Crizotinib, a small-molecule inhibitor of ALK, has transformed the landscape for the treatment of NSCLC harbouring ALK translocations and has demonstrated activity in preclinical models of ALK-driven neuroblastomas. However, inhibition of mutated ALK is complex when compared with translocated ALK and remains a therapeutic challenge. This Review discusses the biology of ALK in the development of neuroblastoma, preclinical and clinical progress with the use of ALK inhibitors and immunotherapy, challenges associated with resistance to such therapies and the steps being taken to overcome some of these hurdles.
Project description:Neuroblastoma is a clinically heterogenous pediatric cancer of the sympathetic nervous system that originates from neural crest cells. It is the most common extracranial solid tumor in childhood and prognosis ranges from spontaneous tumor regression to aggressive disease resistant to multimodal therapy. Prognosis depends on patient characteristics and tumor biology that determine risk classification. Advancements in therapy reductions are merited for low- and intermediate-risk neuroblastoma patients, who generally have excellent outcomes. Of the patients with high-risk disease, only 50% achieve long-term survival, and therapeutic advancements are needed. Over the past several decades, genomic features such as germline mutations, somatic genetic aberrations, chromosome copy number, transcriptomics, and epigenetics have proven to contribute to the pathogenesis of neuroblastoma. The primary predisposition genes in familial neuroblastoma are ALK and PHOX2B. Sporadic neuroblastoma arises with complex pathogenesis, but chromosomal abnormalities and single-nucleotide polymorphisms have been identified to cooperatively lead to oncogenesis. These advances have led to new therapeutic approaches with the potential to improve outcomes for children with neuroblastoma.
Project description:Neuroblastoma, an embryonal tumour of the peripheral sympathetic nervous system, accounts for approximately 15% of all deaths due to childhood cancer. High-risk neuroblastomas are rapidly progressive; even with intensive myeloablative chemotherapy, relapse is common and almost uniformly fatal. Here we report the detection of previously unknown mutations in the ALK gene, which encodes a receptor tyrosine kinase, in 8% of primary neuroblastomas. Five non-synonymous sequence variations were identified in the kinase domain of ALK, of which three were somatic and two were germ line. The most frequent mutation, F1174L, was also identified in three different neuroblastoma cell lines. ALK complementary DNAs encoding the F1174L and R1275Q variants, but not the wild-type ALK cDNA, transformed interleukin-3-dependent murine haematopoietic Ba/F3 cells to cytokine-independent growth. Ba/F3 cells expressing these mutations were sensitive to the small-molecule inhibitor of ALK, TAE684 (ref. 4). Furthermore, two human neuroblastoma cell lines harbouring the F1174L mutation were also sensitive to the inhibitor. Cytotoxicity was associated with increased amounts of apoptosis as measured by TdT-mediated dUTP nick end labelling (TUNEL). Short hairpin RNA (shRNA)-mediated knockdown of ALK expression in neuroblastoma cell lines with the F1174L mutation also resulted in apoptosis and impaired cell proliferation. Thus, activating alleles of the ALK receptor tyrosine kinase are present in primary neuroblastoma tumours and in established neuroblastoma cell lines, and confer sensitivity to ALK inhibition with small molecules, providing a molecular rationale for targeted therapy of this disease.
Project description:Neuroblastoma (NB), the most common solid cancer in early childhood, usually occurs sporadically but also its familial occurance is known in 1-2% of NB patients. Germline mutations in the ALK and PHOX2B genes have been found in a subset of familial NBs. However, because some individuals harbouring mutations in these genes do not develop this tumor, additional genetic alterations appear to be required for NB pathogenesis. Herein, we studied an Italian family with three NB patients, two siblings and a first cousin, carrying an ALK germline-activating mutation R1192P, that was inherited from their unaffected mothers and with no mutations in the PHOX2B gene. A comparison between somatic and germline DNA copy number changes in the two affected siblings by a high resolution array-based Comparative Genomic Hybridization (CGH) analysis revealed a germline gain at NKAIN2 (Na/K transporting ATPase interacting 2) locus in one of the sibling, that was inherited from the parent who does not carry the ALK mutation. Surprisingly, NKAIN2 was expressed at high levels also in the affected sibling that lacks the genomic gain at this locus, clearly suggesting the existance of other regulatory mechanisms. High levels of NKAIN2 were detected in the MYCN-amplified NB cell lines and in the most aggressive NB lesions as well as in the peripheral blood of a large cohort of NB patients. Consistent with a role of NKAIN2 in NB development, NKAIN2 was down-regulated during all-trans retinoic acid differentiation in two NB cell lines. Taken together, these data indicate a potential role of NKAIN2 gene in NB growth and differentiation.
Project description:BACKGROUND: There are currently three postulated genomic subtypes of the childhood tumour neuroblastoma (NB); Type 1, Type 2A, and Type 2B. The most aggressive forms of NB are characterized by amplification of the oncogene MYCN (MNA) and low expression of the favourable marker NTRK1. Recently, mutations or high expression of the familial predisposition gene Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase (ALK) was associated to unfavourable biology of sporadic NB. Also, various other genes have been linked to NB pathogenesis. RESULTS: The present study explores subgroup discrimination by gene expression profiling using three published microarray studies on NB (47 samples). Four distinct clusters were identified by Principal Components Analysis (PCA) in two separate data sets, which could be verified by an unsupervised hierarchical clustering in a third independent data set (101 NB samples) using a set of 74 discriminative genes. The expression signature of six NB-associated genes ALK, BIRC5, CCND1, MYCN, NTRK1, and PHOX2B, significantly discriminated the four clusters (p < 0.05, one-way ANOVA test). PCA clusters p1, p2, and p3 were found to correspond well to the postulated subtypes 1, 2A, and 2B, respectively. Remarkably, a fourth novel cluster was detected in all three independent data sets. This cluster comprised mainly 11q-deleted MNA-negative tumours with low expression of ALK, BIRC5, and PHOX2B, and was significantly associated with higher tumour stage, poor outcome and poor survival compared to the Type 1-corresponding favourable group (INSS stage 4 and/or dead of disease, p < 0.05, Fisher's exact test). CONCLUSIONS: Based on expression profiling we have identified four molecular subgroups of neuroblastoma, which can be distinguished by a 6-gene signature. The fourth subgroup has not been described elsewhere, and efforts are currently made to further investigate this group's specific characteristics.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Neuroblastoma is a biologically and clinically heterogeneous disease. Based on recent studies demonstrating an association between the primary tumor site, prognosis, and commonly measured tumor biological features, we hypothesized that neuroblastomas arising in different sites would show distinct genomic features reflective of the developmental biology of the sympathicoadrenal nervous system. METHODS:We first compared genomic and epigenomic data of primary diagnostic neuroblastomas originating in the adrenal gland (n?=?646) compared to thoracic sympathetic ganglia (n?=?118). We also evaluated association of common germline variation with these primary sites in 1027 European-American neuroblastoma patients. RESULTS:We observed higher rates of MYCN amplification, chromosome 1q gain, and chromosome 11q deletion among adrenal tumors, which were highly predictive of functional RNA signatures. Surprisingly, thoracic neuroblastomas were more likely to harbor ALK driver mutations than adrenal cases among all cases (odds ratio?=?1.89, 95% confidence interval?=?1.04 to 3.43), and among cases without MYCN amplification (odds ratio?=?2.86, 95% confidence interval?=?1.48 to 5.49). Common germline single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in BARD1 (previously associated with high-risk neuroblastoma) were found to be strongly associated with predisposition for origin at adrenal, rather than thoracic, sites. CONCLUSIONS:Neuroblastomas arising in the adrenal gland are more likely to harbor structural DNA aberrations including MYCN amplification, whereas thoracic tumors show defects in mitotic checkpoints resulting in hyperdiploidy. Despite the general association of ALK mutations with high-risk disease, thoracic tumors are more likely to harbor gain-of-function ALK aberrations. Site of origin is likely reflective of stage of sympathetic nervous system development when malignant transformation occurs and is a surrogate for underlying tumor biology.
Project description:Genetic studies have established anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK), a cell surface receptor tyrosine kinase, as a tractable molecular target in neuroblastoma. We describe comprehensive genomic, biochemical, and computational analyses of ALK mutations across 1,596 diagnostic neuroblastoma samples. ALK tyrosine kinase domain mutations occurred in 8% of samples--at three hot spots and 13 minor sites--and correlated significantly with poorer survival in high- and intermediate-risk neuroblastoma. Biochemical and computational studies distinguished oncogenic (constitutively activating) from nononcogenic mutations and allowed robust computational prediction of their effects. The mutated variants also showed differential in vitro crizotinib sensitivities. Our studies identify ALK genomic status as a clinically important therapeutic stratification tool in neuroblastoma and will allow tailoring of ALK-targeted therapy to specific mutations.