Neuroblastoma (NB) is the most common extracranial solid tumor of early childhood; it accounts for approximately 8-10% of all childhood cancers and is the most common cancer in children in the first year of life. Patients in the high-risk group have a poor prognosis, with relapses being common and often refractory to drug treatment in those that survive. Moreover, the drug treatment itself can lead to a range of long-term sequelae. Therefore, there is a critical need to identify new therapeutics for NB. Isoliquiritigenin (ISLQ) is a naturally-occurring, dietary chalcone-type flavonoid with a range of biological effects that depend on the cell type and context. ISLQ has potential as an anticancer agent. Here we show that ISLQ has potent cytotoxic effects on SK-N-BE(2) and IMR-32 human NB cells, which carry amplification of the MYCN gene, the main prognostic marker of poor survival in NB. ISLQ was found to increase cellular reactive oxygen species (ROS). The cytotoxic effect of ISLQ was blocked by small molecule inhibitors of oxidative stress-induced cell death, and by the antioxidant N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC). Combined treatment of either SK-N-B-E(2) or IMR-32 cells with ISLQ and the anticancer agent cisplatin resulted in loss of cell viability that was greater than that induced by cisplatin alone. This study provides proof-of-principle that ISLQ is a potent cytotoxin for MYCN-amplified human NB cells. This is an important first step in rationalizing the further study of ISLQ as a potential adjunct therapy for high-risk NB.
Neuroblastoma is an embryonal malignancy that arises from cells of sympathoadrenal lineage during the development of the nervous system. It is the most common pediatric extracranial solid tumor and is responsible for 15% of childhood deaths from cancer. Fifty percent of cases are diagnosed as high-risk metastatic disease with a low overall 5-year survival rate. More than half of patients experience disease recurrence that can be refractory to treatment. Amplification of the MYCN gene is an important prognostic indicator that is associated with rapid disease progression and a poor prognosis, highlighting the need for new therapeutic approaches. In recent years, there has been an increasing focus on identifying anticancer properties of naturally occurring chalcones, which are secondary metabolites with variable phenolic structures. Here, we report that 4-hydroxychalcone is a potent cytotoxin for MYCN-amplified IMR-32 and SK-N-BE (2) neuroblastoma cells, when compared to non-MYCN-amplified SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells and to the non-neuroblastoma human embryonic kidney cell line, HEK293t. Moreover, 4-hydroxychalcone treatment significantly decreased cellular levels of the antioxidant glutathione and increased cellular reactive oxygen species. In addition, 4-hydroxychalcone treatment led to impairments in mitochondrial respiratory function, compared to controls. In support of this, the cytotoxic effect of 4-hydroxychalcone was prevented by co-treatment with either the antioxidant N-acetyl-L-cysteine, a pharmacological inhibitor of oxidative stress-induced cell death (IM-54) or the mitochondrial reactive oxygen species scavenger, Mito-TEMPO. When combined with the anticancer drugs cisplatin or doxorubicin, 4-hydroxychalcone led to greater reductions in cell viability than was induced by either anti-cancer agent alone. In summary, this study identifies a cytotoxic effect of 4-hydroxychalcone in MYCN-amplified human neuroblastoma cells, which rationalizes its further study in the development of new therapies for pediatric neuroblastoma.
Neuroblastoma (NB) is a paediatric cancer that arises in the sympathetic nervous system. Patients with stage 4 tumours have poor outcomes and 20% of high-risk cases have MYCN amplification. The bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) play roles in sympathetic neuritogenesis, by signalling through bone morphogenetic protein receptor (BMPR)2 and either BMPR1A or BMPR1B. Alterations in BMPR2 expression have been reported in NB; it is unknown if the expression of BMPR1A or BMPR1B is altered. We report lower BMPR2 and BMPR1B, and higher BMPR1A, expression in stage 4 and in MYCN-amplified NB. Kaplan–Meier plots showed that high BMPR2 or BMPR1B expression was linked to better survival, while high BMPR1A was linked to worse survival. Gene ontology enrichment and pathway analyses revealed that BMPR2 and BMPR1B co-expressed genes were enriched in those associated with NB differentiation. BMPR1A co-expressed genes were enriched in those associated with cell proliferation. Moreover, the correlation between BMPR2 and BMPR1A was strengthened, while the correlation between BMPR2 and BMPR1B was lost, in MYCN-amplified NB. This suggested that differentiation should decrease BMPR1A and increase BMPR1B expression. In agreement, nerve growth factor treatment of cultured sympathetic neurons decreased Bmpr1a expression and increased Bmpr1b expression. Overexpression of dominant negative BMPR1B, treatment with a BMPR1B inhibitor and treatment with GDF5, which signals via BMPR1B, showed that BMPR1B signalling is required for optimal neuritogenesis in NB cells, suggesting that loss of BMPR1B may alter neuritogenesis. The present study shows that expression of distinct BMPRs is associated with different survival outcomes in NB.
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