BACKGROUND: Neuroblastoma (NB) tumours have the highest incidence of spontaneous remission, especially among the stage 4s NB subgroup affecting infants. Clinical distinction of stage 4s from lethal stage 4 can be difficult, but critical for therapeutic decisions. The aim of this study was to investigate chromosomal alterations and differential gene expression amongst infant disseminated NB subgroups.
METHODS: Thirty-five NB tumours from patients diagnosed at < 18 months (25 stage 4 and 10 stage 4s), were evaluated by allelic and gene expression analyses.
RESULTS: All stage 4s patients underwent spontaneous remission, only 48% stage 4 patients survived despite combined modality therapy. Stage 4 tumours were 90% near-diploid/tetraploid, 44% MYCN amplified, 77% had 1p LOH (50% 1p36), 23% 11q and/or 14q LOH (27%) and 47% had 17q gain. Stage 4s were 90% near-triploid, none MYCN amplified and LOH was restricted to 11q. Initial comparison analyses between stage 4s and 4 < 12 months tumours revealed distinct gene expression profiles. A significant portion of genes mapped to chromosome 1 (P < 0.0001), 90% with higher expression in stage 4s, and chromosome 11 (P = 0.0054), 91% with higher expression in stage 4. Less definite expression profiles were observed between stage 4s and 4 < 18m, yet, association with chromosomes 1 (P < 0.0001) and 11 (P = 0.005) was maintained. Distinct gene expression profiles but no significant association with specific chromosomal region localization was observed between stage 4s and stage 4 < 18 months without MYCN amplification.
CONCLUSION: Specific chromosomal aberrations are associated with distinct gene expression profiles which characterize spontaneously regressing or aggressive infant NB, providing the biological basis for the distinct clinical behaviour.
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