Expression of the c-kit receptor characterizes a subset of neuroblastomas with favorable prognosis

Oncogene. 2004 Jan 15;23(2):588-95. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1207145.


Expression of the c-kit proto-oncogene product in neuroblastomas has been reported, but its clinical relevance is unclear. We determined the expression of c-kit by immunohistochemistry in a series of 155 neuroblastomas with long-term follow-up. The specificity of the reaction was verified by Western blot analysis and quantitative RT-PCR, and exon 11 of the kit gene was screened for mutations by PCR and capillary electrophoresis. No mutations were detected, and transcription of the kit gene correlated with protein expression. c-kit expression was associated with lower tumor stages and a low rate of MYCN amplification. More importantly, it coincided with tumor differentiation (P<0.0001), and portended a favorable outcome with a relative risk of 0.18 (P<0.0001). In a multivariate analysis of event-free survival, loss of c-kit (relative risk 4.25, P<0.0001) was an independent prognostic factor next to INSS stage 4 and before MYCN amplification. It is concluded that c-kit is transcriptionally regulated in neuroblastomas. Its expression likely identifies a subset of neuroblastomas with conserved capacity for differentiation, which may represent the embryonal variety of the disease. Assessment of c-kit may improve prognostic models for neuroblastoma and provide a basis for new therapy concepts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cohort Studies
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Neuroblastoma / classification
  • Neuroblastoma / genetics
  • Neuroblastoma / metabolism*
  • Neuroblastoma / pathology*
  • Prognosis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / metabolism*
  • Survival Analysis


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit