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Environ Health Perspect. 1989 Mar;80:3-15.

Human neuroblastoma cell lines as models for the in vitro study of neoplastic and neuronal cell differentiation.

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Division of Head and Neck Surgery, UCLA School of Medicine 90024.


Neuroblastoma is a childhood solid tumor composed of primitive cells derived from precursors of the autonomic nervous system. This neoplasm has the highest rate of spontaneous regression of all cancer types and has been noted to undergo spontaneous and chemically induced differentiation into elements resembling mature nervous tissue. As such, neuroblastoma has been a prime model system for the study of neuronal differentiation and the process of cancer cell maturation. In this paper we review those agents that have been described to induce the differentiation of neuroblastoma, with an emphasis on the effects and possible mechanisms of action of a group of related compounds, the retinoids. With this model system and the availability of subclones that are both responsive and resistant to chemically induced differentiation, fundamental questions regarding the mechanisms and processes underlying cell maturation have become more amenable to in vitro study.

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