Newly-derived neuroblastoma cell lines propagated in serum-free media recapitulate the genotype and phenotype of primary neuroblastoma tumours

Eur J Cancer. 2014 Feb;50(3):628-37. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2013.11.015. Epub 2013 Dec 6.


Recently protocols have been devised for the culturing of cell lines from fresh tumours under serum-free conditions in defined neural stem cell medium. These cells, frequently called tumour initiating cells (TICs) closely retained characteristics of the tumours of origin. We report the isolation of eight newly-derived neuroblastoma TICs from six primary neuroblastoma tumours and two bone marrow metastases. The primary tumours from which these TICs were generated have previously been fully typed by whole genome sequencing (WGS). Array comparative genomic hybridisation (aCGH) analysis showed that TIC lines retained essential characteristics of the primary tumours and exhibited typical neuroblastoma chromosomal aberrations such as MYCN amplification, gain of chromosome 17q and deletion of 1p36. Protein analysis showed expression for neuroblastoma markers MYCN, NCAM, CHGA, DBH and TH while haematopoietic markers CD19 and CD11b were absent. We analysed the growth characteristics and confirmed tumour-forming potential using sphere-forming assays, subcutaneous and orthotopic injection of these cells into immune-compromised mice. Affymetrix mRNA expression profiling of TIC line xenografts showed an expression pattern more closely mimicking primary tumours compared to xenografts from classical cell lines. This establishes that these neuroblastoma TICs cultured under serum-free conditions are relevant and useful neuroblastoma tumour models.

Keywords: Neuroblastoma; Neuroblastoma TICs; Principal component analysis; Whole genome sequencing; aCGH.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Culture Media, Serum-Free
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neuroblastoma / genetics*
  • Neuroblastoma / metabolism
  • Neuroblastoma / pathology*
  • Phenotype
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Culture Media, Serum-Free
  • RNA, Messenger