Neuroblastoma, the most common malignant tumor of early childhood, is frequently associated with the presence of MYCN amplification, a genetic biomarker associated with poor prognosis. Researchers have determined that tumors containing MYCN amplification are sensitive to a new class of drugs, BET bromodomain inhibitors.
The researchers made this discovery in a preclinical study, which was funded in part by a Stand Up To Cancer Innovative Research Grant and was published in Cancer Discovery, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
"BET bromodomain inhibitors are a class of drugs that many researchers are hopeful may offer a new therapeutic option for treating patients with certain cancers," said Kimberly Stegmaier, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics in the Department of Hematology/Oncology at Dana-Farber/Children's Hospital Cancer Center in Boston, Mass. "The challenge has been identifying biomarkers that can help direct clinical translation of these drugs by pinpointing those patients with the highest likelihood of response."
To identify genetic biomarkers of responsiveness to BET bromodomain inhibitors, Stegmaier and colleagues screened more than 600 cancer cell lines with known genetic characteristics for sensitivity to a prototypical BET bromodomain inhibitor.
Using this high-throughput, cell-based screening process, the researchers found that neuroblastoma cells in which the MYCN gene was amplified were sensitive to BET bromodomain inhibitors.
"Neuroblastoma is a devastating childhood cancer, and only a minority of children with high-risk disease will be cured with currently available treatments," Stegmaier said. "Prior research has shown that MYCN amplification is common in neuroblastoma, but it has been an elusive drug target."