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Brain Cancer Health Center

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Neuroblastoma Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - General Information About Neuroblastoma

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These specific genetic changes may be combined with traditional clinical factors such as patient age and tumor stage to refine neuroblastoma risk classes.

Children whose tumors have lost a copy of 11q are older at diagnosis, and their tumors contain more segmental chromosome changes in gene copy number compared with children whose tumors show MYCN amplification.[19,20] Moreover, segmental chromosome changes not detected at diagnosis may be found in neuroblastomas at relapse. This suggests that clinically important tumor progression is associated with accumulation of segmental chromosomal alterations.[21]

Molecular features

Approximately 6% to 10% of sporadic neuroblastomas carry somatic ALK-activating mutations, and an additional 3% to 4% have a high frequency of ALK gene amplification. The mutations result in constitutive phosphorylation of ALK, leading to dysregulation of cell signaling and uncontrolled proliferation of the ALK-mutant neuroblasts. Thus, inhibition of ALK kinase is a potential target for treatment of neuroblastoma, especially in children whose tumors harbor an ALK mutation or ALK gene amplification.[22]

Genome-wide association studies in children with neuroblastoma have found common single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with a modest susceptibility to develop high-risk neuroblastoma.[23,24] Other SNPs are associated with susceptibility to develop low-risk neuroblastoma.[24] SNPs associated with race predict a higher incidence of neuroblastoma and worse outcome.[25]

Large genomic studies have found few recurrent gene mutations in patients with neuroblastoma, including ALK (9.2%), PTPN11 (2.9%), ATRX (2.5%; 7.1% focal deletions), MYCN (1.7%), and NRAS (0.8%).[19,21,26,27]ATRX is involved in epigenetic gene silencing and telomere length. ATRX mutation without MYCN amplification is associated with older age at diagnosis in adolescents and young adults with metastatic neuroblastoma.[28] It is unclear whether an ATRX mutation is an independent prognostic risk factor.

Neuroblastoma Screening

Current data do not support neuroblastoma screening. Screening at the ages of 3 weeks, 6 months, or 1 year caused no reduction in the incidence of advanced-stage neuroblastoma with unfavorable biological characteristics in older children, nor did it reduce the number of deaths from neuroblastoma in infants screened at any age.[11,12] No public health benefits have been shown from screening infants for neuroblastoma at these ages. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Neuroblastoma Screening for more information.)

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