Proliferative capacity of neuroblastoma

Neuroblastoma is a neural crest cell-derived extracranial solid cancer that affects infants and young children. The most vigorous of these cancers spreads through self-renewing cancer stem cells. Knowing the nature of these cells is essential to understanding the progression of neuroblastoma and devising the right treatment strategy.

Reporting in the journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, Dai Chung, M.D., and colleagues use a technique called “limiting dilution analysis” to show that the frequency with which neuroblastoma stem cells form spheres in suspension cultures accurately quantifies their stemness, or ability to “self-renew.”

Cell lines formed spheres more frequently when the MYCN oncogene was overactive. Retinoic acid, used clinically to induce differentiation of residual disease after chemotherapy and radiation, almost blocked sphere formation entirely, while fibroblast growth factor (FGF) promoted sphere formation.

Limiting dilution analysis is an accurate method of quantifying sphere-forming frequency, and should be adopted as an effective way to assess the stemness or proliferative capacity of neuroblastoma stem cells, they conclude.

This research was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (DK061470) and by a Rally Foundation for Cancer Research Pediatric Oncology Fellowship Award.

– by Sanjay Mishra