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J Pediatr Surg. 2001 Dec;36(12):1785-91.

The inhibitor of apoptosis protein survivin is associated with high-risk behavior of neuroblastoma.

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Department of Surgery, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.



Apoptotic factors inducing or preventing cell death may intrinsically govern the behavior of some tumors. Survivin is a recently described member of the inhibitor of apoptosis protein (IAP) family, that is expressed in a cell cycle-dependent manner and is found in tumors of unfavorable histology. This study examines the presence of several apoptotic factors, including survivin, in neuroblastoma (NB) tumors. Clues to survivin's function in NB are provided by examining its association with behavior and cell dynamics in tumors and cell lines.


Expression of a panel of apoptosis factors were quantified in 15 NB and related tumors before chemotherapy and in 3 NB cell lines (NB7, NB10, and NB16). Survivin and other apoptotic factors, as well N-myc amplification in primary tumors was correlated with recurrent disease and outcome. Proliferation rate, apoptosis assays, cell cycle analysis, and drug- or immune-mediated cell death were assessed in cell lines and evaluated in the context of differential survivin and apoptosis gene expression.


All 7 tumors that went on to recur expressed survivin, whereas expression was absent in all 8 tumors that went into remission. N-myc was amplified in 4 (57.1%) of the 7 recurrent tumors. Of the 8 tumors that were cured, Fas was expressed in 3 (38%), TRAIL-R1 in 6 (75%) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-R1 in 8 (100%), whereas these pro-apoptotic receptors were present in only 1 (14%), 1 (14%), and 4 (57%) of the 7 tumors that went on to recur, respectively. Of the 3 cell lines, NB10 expressed the least survivin, displayed the lowest proliferation index, and had the fewest number of cells in the G2/M (mitotic) phase of the cell cycle. Furthermore, NB10 also was most sensitive to TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) or etoposide-induced cell death.


In primary NB tumors, survivin expression was associated with tumors of high risk and unfavorable prognosis, whereas pro-apoptotic receptor expression was more abundant in tumors of favorable prognosis. In this small series, survivin expression appeared to be more predictive of recurrent disease than N-myc amplification. In cell lines, survivin expression was cell cycle dependent, and its expression was associated with greater proliferation rates and greater resistance to drug- or immune-mediated cell death. Survivin expression may become a useful prognostic marker in NB and could be a potential target for the treatment of this tumor. J Pediatr Surg 36:1785-1791.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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