Neuroblastoma (NB) is the most frequent extra-cranial solid tumor and the first cause of lethality in pre-school age children. NB accounts for 9-10% of pediatric tumors and affects more than ten thousand children a year. It originates from the sympathetic nervous system and is characterized by heterogeneous pathological and clinical presentation. Stage 4 NB represents approximately 50% of the cases and shows metastatic dissemination at onset; its prognosis is grim, with 20% of the patients surviving at 5 years from diagnosis in spite of aggressive chemotherapy with autologous hematopoietic stem cell support. Novel therapeutic strategies are urgently needed to improve the prognosis of stage 4 NB patients. Here we review the most promising approaches to NB treatment that have already reached clinical testing or have proved to be successful in preclinical models of the disease. All of these approaches are molecularly guided, since their rational development has benefited from the enormous amount of information on the biology of neuroblastoma gathered through molecular biology and genetics studies. The following topics are reviewed: MYCN oncogene amplification as parameter for therapeutic decision, minimal residual disease, immunotherapy, gene therapy, differentiation and apoptotic therapy, anti-angiogenic therapy, gene expression profiling as tool for generating novel therapeutic approaches. Although several efforts are still needed to reach a significant cure of patients with neuroblastoma, molecularly guided approaches have opened new ways to neuroblastoma treatment and can represent useful models for other cancers of either childhood or adulthood.
Keywords: Neuroblastoma, MYCN, minimal residual disease, immunotherapy, gene therapy, angiogenesis, differentiation, apoptosis
Rights & PermissionsPrintExport