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Clin Cancer Res. 2012 May 15;18(10):2740-53. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-11-1939.

Promising therapeutic targets in neuroblastoma.

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Department of Pediatrics, UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, and UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, UCSF Medical Center, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-0106, USA.


Neuroblastoma, the most common extracranial solid tumor in children, is derived from neural crest cells. Nearly half of patients present with metastatic disease and have a 5-year event-free survival of <50%. New approaches with targeted therapy may improve efficacy without increased toxicity. In this review we evaluate 3 promising targeted therapies: (i) (131)I-metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG), a radiopharmaceutical that is taken up by human norepinephrine transporter (hNET), which is expressed in 90% of neuroblastomas; (ii) immunotherapy with monoclonal antibodies targeting the GD2 ganglioside, which is expressed on 98% of neuroblastoma cells; and (iii) inhibitors of anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK), a tyrosine kinase that is mutated or amplified in ~10% of neuroblastomas and expressed on the surface of most neuroblastoma cells. Early-phase trials have confirmed the activity of (131)I-MIBG in relapsed neuroblastoma, with response rates of ~30%, but the technical aspects of administering large amounts of radioactivity in young children and limited access to this agent have hindered its incorporation into treatment of newly diagnosed patients. Anti-GD2 antibodies have also shown activity in relapsed disease, and a recent phase III randomized trial showed a significant improvement in event-free survival for patients receiving chimeric anti-GD2 (ch14.18) combined with cytokines and isotretinoin after myeloablative consolidation therapy. A recently approved small-molecule inhibitor of ALK has shown promising preclinical activity for neuroblastoma and is currently in phase I and II trials. This is the first agent directed to a specific mutation in neuroblastoma, and marks a new step toward personalized therapy for neuroblastoma. Further clinical development of targeted treatments offers new hope for children with neuroblastoma.

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