Novel therapeutic strategies targeting telomere maintenance mechanisms in high-risk neuroblastoma.
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The majority of high-risk neuroblastomas can be divided into three distinct molecular subgroups defined by the presence of MYCN amplification, upstream TERT rearrangements or alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT). The common defining feature of all three subgroups is altered telomere maintenance; MYCN amplification and upstream TERT rearrangements drive high levels of telomerase expression whereas ALT is a telomerase independent telomere maintenance mechanism. As all three telomere maintenance mechanisms are independently associated with poor outcomes, the development of strategies to selectively target either telomerase expressing or ALT cells holds great promise as a therapeutic approach that is applicable to the majority of children with aggressive disease.Here we summarise the biology of telomere maintenance and the molecular drivers of aggressive neuroblastoma before describing the most promising therapeutic strategies to target both telomerase expressing and ALT cancers. For telomerase-expressing neuroblastoma the most promising targeted agent to date is 6-thio-2'-deoxyguanosine, however clinical development of this agent is required. In osteosarcoma cell lines with ALT, selective sensitivity to ATR inhibition has been reported. However, we present data showing that in fact ALT neuroblastoma cells are more resistant to the clinical ATR inhibitor AZD6738 compared to other neuroblastoma subtypes. More recently a number of additional candidate compounds have been shown to show selectivity for ALT cancers, such as Tetra-Pt (bpy), a compound targeting the telomeric G-quadruplex and pifithrin-α, a putative p53 inhibitor. Further pre-clinical evaluation of these compounds in neuroblastoma models is warranted.In summary, telomere maintenance targeting strategies offer a significant opportunity to develop effective new therapies, applicable to a large proportion of children with high-risk neuroblastoma. In parallel to clinical development, more pre-clinical research specifically for neuroblastoma is urgently needed, if we are to improve survival for this common poor outcome tumour of childhood.
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Paediatric Solid Tumour Biology and Therapeutics
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Journal of experimental & clinical cancer research : CR, 2020, 39 (1), pp. 78 - ?