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Cancer Lett. 2005 Oct 18;228(1-2):133-41.

Targeting programmed cell death pathways with experimental therapeutics: opportunities in high-risk neuroblastoma.

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Division of Oncology, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 9 North ARC, 3615 Civic Center Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4318, USA.


Neuroblastoma is a pediatric solid tumor with high morbidity and mortality in association with particular high-risk biological and clinical features (such as MYCN proto-oncogene amplification or advanced tumor stage). Such high-risk neuroblastomas may be initially responsive to cytoreductive therapies, yet the majority will ultimately demonstrate de novo or acquired chemoresistance leading to tumor progression and death. Insight into the genetic alterations responsible for these phenotypes are beginning to be gained, and subversion of inherent programmed cell death pathways is a common theme. Intact apoptosis pathways protect cells against neoplastic transformation and provide the mechanisms by which cytotoxic agents exert their effects. When these pathways are abolished through alterations in the cell death machinery, they complement deregulated oncogenes to promote tumor initiation and therapy resistance. Currently, therapeutic intensity for high-risk neuroblastoma has been advanced to near-tolerance with only modest gains in survival, and it is likely that further improvements in outcome will require innovative approaches that target key regulatory pathways that potentiate currently available therapies. Efforts to abrogate the cancer cell 'survival bias' engendered by alterations in death pathways are now a major focus in experimental cancer therapeutics, and their application to the problem of high-risk neuroblastoma form the basis of this review. These include agents that activate death receptors (TRAIL-agonists) or restore DISC competency (CDDO, DNA methyltransferase and HDAC inhibitors); reduce pro-survival Bcl2 homologues (Oblimersen sodium [AS-Bcl2], AS-Mcl1) or deliver a pro-apoptotic BH3 protein burden (BH3 peptides, gossypol, ABT737); or repress IAPs (Smac/Diablo peptides, AS-XIAP, AS-Survivin). As our knowledge of apoptosis dysregulation in neuroblastoma evolves, the possibilities for pro-apoptotic therapeutics seems not only promising, but a realistic adjunct to conventional treatments.

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