Neuropeptide Level May Signal Neuroblastoma Prognosis Interview with:
Joanna Kitlinska, PhD
Assistant Professor
Georgetown University Medical Center
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular & Cellular Biology
Washington, DC 20057

MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Kitlinska: Neuroblastoma is a pediatric malignancy with extremely heterogeneous phenotypes, ranging from spontaneously regressing to aggressive, untreatable tumors. Consequently, treatment strategies vary significantly between patients, depending on the initial risk assessment. Given the severe late effects of anti-cancer treatment administered to infants and children, proper disease stratification is of utmost importance for neuroblastoma patients.

Due to their neuronal origin, neuroblastomas secrete neuropeptide Y (NPY), a small protein normally released from mature nerves. This, in turn, may result in elevated NPY levels in blood of neuroblastoma patients. We have found that serum NPY is particularly high in patients with aggressive, metastatic disease. Consequently, patients with elevated NPY levels have significantly worse survival. This finding is in agreement with our previous data indicating crucial role for NPY in stimulation of neuroblastoma tumor growth.

MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Kitlinska: Elevated NPY can serve as a prognostic factor for neuroblastoma patients. In contrast to complex genetic analyses currently utilized to assess risk of the disease, the measurement of NPY levels in blood can be converted to a readily available analytical test. Importantly, a test like this does not require access to the tumor tissue, which is often limited, particularly in relapsing tumors. Thus, measuring NPY levels in blood may also allow for minimally invasive longitudinal monitoring of the disease progression, which currently involves complex and harmful radioimaging.

In addition to potential utility of NPY systemic levels in neuroblastoma stratification and monitoring, our findings implicate NPY pathway as potential therapeutic target. Associations of high NPY levels with metastatic disease and relapse strongly indicate that such therapies may target patients with the most aggressive form neuroblastoma.

MedicalResearch: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Kitlinska: Our results should be confirmed in large, prospective study that would include samples collected at diagnosis and post treatment. Such longitudinal study would validate our findings and assess a value of serum NPY measurement in disease monitoring.

In addition to the proposed clinical studies, our findings warrant further translational research designed to determine if blocking NPY signaling prevents neuroblastoma progression and dissemination.


Presented at the American Association for Cancer Research 2015 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia

Neuropeptide Y (NPY) and its receptor expression in neuroblastoma patients – associations with disease prognosis and patients’ survival. Susana Galli, Jason Tilan, Arlene Naranjo, Collin Van Ryn, Chao Yang, Jessica Tsuei, Emily Trinh, Joanna B. Kitlinska.

 [wysija_form id=”1″] Interview with:Joanna Kitlinska, PhD (2015). Neuropeptide Level May Signal Neuroblastoma Prognosis