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Texas Children's Researchers Identify New Subset Of Neuroblastoma Tumor 'Stem Cells'

Approximately 40% of children with neuroblastoma have "high-risk" tumors that receive aggressive treatment with combinations of chemotherapy, stem cell transplantation, surgery and radiation therapy. Unfortunately, despite this aggressive therapy, many cases of "high-risk" neuroblastoma do not respond or relapse after completion of treatment. New therapies are needed for these children to improve the cure rates and reduce the occurrence and severity of the side effects of treatment.

Recently, scientists have identified cancer "stem cells" in a variety of adult cancers, and these cancer stem cells have the ability to grow into new tumors. These cancer stem cells are often resistant to standard treatment and are the presumed sources of cancer recurrence. A team led by Dr. Jason Shohet at Texas Children's Hospital recently identified a small population of neuroblastoma tumor cells in patient tumors that have the common genetic and biologic features of cancer stem cells (Hsu et al 2013). These cells are also characterized by the expression of the receptor for granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF, also known as CD114) on their surface. While the role of G-CSF in the survival and growth of these neuroblastoma stem cells is unknown, the development of new treatments designed specifically to be effective against these stem cells is likely to increase overall survival rates for children with neuroblastoma by reducing the risk of tumor spread and relapse.

The successes of these neuroblastoma research projects provide hope for the discovery of new and improved neuroblastoma treatment in the future. Other scientists at Texas Children's Hospital are currently looking for new ways to detect and treat neuroblastoma, and new clinical trials are currently being developed to make these exciting new treatment options available for the children who need them most.

Future research by the scientists in the Neuroblastoma Program at Texas Children's Hospital will continue to explore new pathways, new targets and new treatments in order to provide the most appropriate and most effective therapy for each and every child with neuroblastoma.


Hsu DM, Agarwal S, Benham A, Coarfa C, Trahan DN, Chen Z, Stowers PN, Courtney AN, Lakoma A, Barbieri E, Metelitsa LS, Gunaratne P, Kim ES, Shohet JM. Expression of the G-CSF Receptor, CD114, Marks a Novel, Highly Tumorigenic Cell Population in a Neuroblastoma Cell Line.  Cancer Research.  2013 May 30 [Epub ahead of print]