Neuroblastoma and its zebrafish model

Shizhen Zhu, A. Thomas Look

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

9 Scopus citations


Neuroblastoma, an important developmental tumor arising in the peripheral sympathetic nervous system (PSNS), accounts for approximately 10 % of all cancer-related deaths in children. Recent genomic analyses have identified a spectrum of genetic alterations in this tumor. Amplification of the MYCN oncogene is found in 20 % of cases and is often accompanied by mutational activation of the ALK (anaplastic lymphoma kinase) gene, suggesting their cooperation in tumor initiation and spread. Understanding how complex genetic changes function together in oncogenesis has been a continuing and daunting task in cancer research. This challenge was addressed in neuroblastoma by generating a transgenic zebrafish model that overexpresses human MYCN and activated ALK in the PSNS, leading to tumors that closely resemble human neuroblastoma and new opportunities to probe the mechanisms that underlie the pathogenesis of this tumor. For example, coexpression of activated ALK with MYCN in this model triples the penetrance of neuroblastoma and markedly accelerates tumor onset, demonstrating the interaction of these modified genes in tumor development. Further, MYCN overexpression induces adrenal sympathetic neuroblast hyperplasia, blocks chromaffin cell differentiation, and ultimately triggers a developmentally-timed apoptotic response in the hyperplastic sympathoadrenal cells. In the context of MYCN overexpression, activated ALK provides prosurvival signals that block this apoptotic response, allowing continued expansion and oncogenic transformation of hyperplastic neuroblasts, thus promoting progression to neuroblastoma. This application of the zebrafish model illustrates its value in rational assessment of the multigenic changes that define neuroblastoma pathogenesis and points the way to future studies to identify novel targets for therapeutic intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
PublisherSpringer New York LLC
Number of pages28
StatePublished - 2016

Publication series

NameAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
ISSN (Print)0065-2598
ISSN (Electronic)2214-8019


  • ALK
  • Animal model
  • Functional genomic
  • MYCN
  • Neural crest
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Transgenesis
  • Zebrafish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Neuroblastoma and its zebrafish model'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this