Molecular Basis for Heterogeneity in Human Neuroblastomas

Eur J Cancer. 1995;31A(4):505-10. doi: 10.1016/0959-8049(95)00040-p.


Neuroblastomas demonstrate both clinical and biological heterogeneity. We have proposed that neuroblastomas may be classified in three genetically distinct subtypes, based on cytogenetic and molecular analysis. The first comprises those with hyperdiploid or triploid modal karyotypes (or compatible DNA content by flow cytometry), 1p LOH and MYCN amplification are absent, and TRKA expression is high. These patients are likely to be infants with low stages of disease (stages 1, 2, or 4S by the International Neuroblastoma Staging System), and they have a very favourable outcome (> 90% cure). The second group consists of tumours that generally have a near diploid or tetraploid modal chromosome number or DNA content but lack MYCN amplification. They usually have 1p allelic loss, 14q allelic loss or other structural changes, and TRKA expression is usually low. These patients are generally older with advanced stages of disease (stages 3 or 4), and they have a slowly progressive course, with a cure rate of 25-50%. The third group is characterised by tumours with MYCN amplification. These tumours are generally near diploid or tetraploid, with 1p allelic loss, and low or absent TRKA expression. The patients are usually between 1 and 5 years of age with advanced stages of disease, and they have a very poor prognosis (< 5%). It remains to be determined if tumours in one group ever evolve into a less unfavourable group, but current evidence suggests that they are distinct genetically. The identification of the oncogenes, suppressor genes and growth factor receptor pathways involved in neuroblastomas has provided great insight into the mechanisms of malignant transformation and progression, and ultimately they may provide the targets for future therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Chromosome Aberrations
  • Genes, myc
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Neoplasm Regression, Spontaneous / genetics
  • Neuroblastoma / classification
  • Neuroblastoma / genetics*
  • Neuroblastoma / metabolism
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor / genetics
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor / metabolism


  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor