Neuroblastomas of infancy exhibit a characteristic ganglioside pattern

Karen Kaucic, Nancy Etue, Bonnie LaFleur, William Woods, Stephan Ladisch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND. Gangliosides are membrane-bound glycolipid molecules particularly prominent in neural tissue. Changes in ganglioside expression during embryologic development result from a shift in biosynthesis from the fetal b pathway to the adult a pathway. Tumor gangliosides may play a role in the clinical behavior of certain subtypes of neuroblastoma. Because neuroblastoma, which presents in infancy, has a different biologic and clinical phenotype than that which presents in older children, the authors determined whether differences in ganglioside biosynthesis exist between these two neuroblastoma subgroups. METHODS. Sixty-eight tumor specimens (25 diagnosed by screening and 43 diagnosed clinically) were obtained from the Quebec Neuroblastoma Screening Project. Gangliosides were isolated and purified by solvent partitioning, separated by high performance thin-layer chromatography, and quantitated by scanning densitometry. The sum of a and b pathway gangliosides were determined for each tumor. RESULTS. Gangliosides of the b (fetal) pathway predominated in both screened and clinically diagnosed tumors of patients younger than 1 year of age. Twenty-three of 25 screened patients (92%) and 21 of 23 patients with clinically diagnosed tumors at younger than 1 year of age (91%) had tumor b pathway ganglioside content greater than 60%. In contrast, tumors of only 8 of 20 patients 1 year or older (40%) had b pathway ganglioside predominance. Predominance of b pathway tumor gangliosides correlated with improved outcome. Event free survival was significantly higher among patients with b pathway ganglioside tumor content greater than 60% versus those with b pathway ganglioside tumor content less than 60% (118.1 ± 3.9 months vs. 69.2 ± 8.6 months, P < 0.01). CONCLUSIONS. Fetal patterns of ganglioside biosynthesis predominate in neuroblastoma tumors from patients younger than 1 year of age and adult patterns of ganglioside biosynthesis predominate in tumors from older children, supporting the view that neuroblastoma consists of distinct but overlapping disorders, and that gangliosides may play a biologic role in the clinical differences among these patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)785-793
Number of pages9
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Biosynthesis
  • Gangliosides
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Patterns
  • Screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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