Article: a PhD thesis.
Molecular and Functional Characterization of Neuroblastoma-Initiating Cells
Université de Lausanne, Faculté de biologie et médecine
Laboratoire d'Oncologie Pédiatrique, Dpt de Pédiatrie CHUV BH-11 CH-1011 Lausanne
Number of pages
Neuroblastoma (NB) is the most common extracranial malignant tumor in young children and arises at any site of the sympathetic nervous system. The disease exhibits a remarkable phenotypic diversity ranging from spontaneous regression to fatal disease. Poor outcome results from a rapidly progressive, metastatic and drug-resistant disease. Recent studies have suggested that solid tumors may arise from a minor population of cancer stem cells (CSCs) with stem cell markers and typical properties such as self-renewal ability, asymmetric division and drug resistance. In this model, CSCs possess the exclusive ability to initiate and maintain the tumor, and to produce distant metastases. Tumor cell subpopulations with stem-like phenotypes have indeed been identified in several cancer including leukemia, breast, brain and colon cancers. CSC hypothesis still needs to be validated in the other cancers including NB.NB originates from neural crest-derived malignant sympatho-adrenal cells. We have identified rare cells that express markers in conformity with neural crest stem cells and their derived lineages within primary NB tissue and cell lines, leading us to postulate the existence of CSCs in NB tumors.In the absence of specific markers to isolate CSCs, we adapted to NB tumor cells the sphere functional assay, based on the ability of stem cells to grow as spheres in non-adherent conditions. By serial passages of spheres from bone marrow NB metastases, a subset of cells was gradually selected and its specific gene expression profile identified by micro-array time-course analysis. The differentially expressed genes in spheres are enriched in genes implicated in development including CD133, ABC-transporters, WNT and NOTCH genes, identified in others solid cancers as CSCs markers, and other new markers, all referred by us as the Neurosphere Expression Profile (NEP). We confirmed the presence of a cell subpopulation expressing a combination of the NEP markers within a few primary NB samples.The tumorigenic potential of NB spheres was assayed by in vivo tumor growth analyses using orthotopic (adrenal glands) implantations of tumor cells into immune-compromised mice. Tumors derived from the sphere cells were significantly more frequent and were detected earlier compared to whole tumor cells. However, NB cells expressing the neurosphere-associated genes and isolated from the bulk tumors did not recapitulate the CSC-like phenotype in the orthotopic model. In addition, the NB sphere cells lost their higher tumorigenic potential when implanted in a subcutaneous heterotopic in vivo model.These results highlighted the complex behavior of CSC functions and led us to consider the stem-like NB cells as a dynamic and heterogeneous cell population influenced by microenvironment signals.Our approach identified for the first time candidate genes that may be associated with NB self-renewal and tumorigenicity and therefore would establish specific functional targets for more effective therapies in aggressive NB.
neuroblastoma, cancer stem cells, neurospheres, transcriptome
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