Scientists have identified potential therapeutic targets for the treatment of neuroblastoma, the most frequent solid tumour in young children.
By studying human neuroblastoma cells in vitro and after xenotransplantation into mice and chicks, a team of researchers, led by Patrick Mehlen, at Universite de Lyon, France, has identified the protein NT-3 and the cell-surface molecule to which it binds (TrkC).
In the study, NT-3 was found to be expressed at increased levels in aggressive human neuroblastomas and to block the ability of TrkC to induce tumour cell death by a process known as apoptosis.
In vitro analysis of human neuroblastoma cell lines indicated that both decreasing NT-3 expression and culturing in the presence of an antibody that blocked NT-3 binding to TrkC triggered the cells to undergo apoptosis.
More importantly, blocking the NT-3/TrkC interaction inhibited tumour growth and metastasis in both a chick and a mouse xenograft model of neuroblastoma.
The authors therefore suggest that disrupting the NT-3/TrkC interaction might provide a new approach to treating neuroblastoma, a form of cancer for which treatment options are urrently limited. (ANI)