Neuroblastoma (NB), the most common extracranial solid tumor in childhood, is an extremely heterogeneous disease both biologically and clinically. Although significant progress has been made in identifying molecular and genetic markers for NB, this disease remains an enigmatic challenge. Since NB is thought to be an embryonal tumor that is derived from precursor cells of the peripheral (sympathetic) nervous system, understanding the development of normal sympathetic nervous system may highlight abnormal events that contribute to NB initiation. Therefore, this review focuses on the development of the peripheral trunk neural crest, the current understanding of how developmental factors may contribute to NB and on recent advances in the identification of important genetic lesions and signaling pathways involved in NB tumorigenesis and metastasis. Finally, we discuss how future advances in identification of molecular alterations in NB may lead to more effective, less toxic therapies, and improve the prognosis for NB patients.
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.