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Br J Cancer. 2001 Jul 20;85(2):182-9.

Genetic heterogeneity and clonal evolution in neuroblastoma.

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  • 1Departments of Pediatrics, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, USA.


Tumour heterogeneity and clonal evolution at the genetic level may explain the development of malignant or resistant disease during clinical progression of neuroblastoma (NB). In this report we use 1p allelic analysis and DNA ploidy to evaluate clonal heterogeneity and clonal selection in vivo. We studied a total of 69 tumours from 29 patients with NB. To evaluate tumour heterogeneity and clonal evolution in vivo we used a panel of polymorphic allelic markers mapping to chromosome 1. 33 tumours from 12 patients (group 1) were obtained from different sites during the same surgery or at sequential surgeries without intervening chemotherapy to evaluate genetic heterogeneity. Paired samples from 10 patients (group 2) were used to evaluate clonal selection before and after chemotherapy. In 6 cases paired tumours and derived cell lines were studied. Analysis of DNA ploidy changes by karyotype, FISH and flow cytometry was performed in 15 tumours from 6 multiply recurred local-regional (LR) NB patients. Allelotype study revealed that 66% (8/12) of group 1 samples were heterogeneous, with distinct allelic patterns in tumour samples separated by time or location. In group 2 allelic patterns were different in post-chemotherapy specimens in 60% (6/10). DNA ploidy analysis showed that pre-chemotherapy samples contained 2 distinct ploidy clones, one diploid and one triploid, whereas all post-chemotherapy tumor samples were 100% diploid. These findings suggest that NB exhibits a high degree of clonal heterogeneity and clonal evolution occurs during the course of therapy and clinical progression.

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