Purpose: Novel treatment strategies for high-risk and disseminated neuroblastoma (NB) are actively sought because of the dismal prognosis of advanced stage disease. Tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) is a recently identified member of the tumor necrosis factor family. TRAIL is capable of inducing apoptosis in multiple tumor cell types, with little or no cytotoxicity against normal cells. Experimental Design: We examined the activation and regulation of TRAIL-induced apoptosis in several human NB cell lines. The effect of TRAIL was examined in the context of TRAIL receptor (TRAIL-R) and survivin (an antiapoptotic protein) expression in the cell lines. The ratio of survivin/TRAIL-R messenger RNA was determined and evaluated as a marker of recurrent disease in patients with NB. Results: TRAIL induced apoptotic cell death of NB with variable sensitivities among the cell lines tested. Compared with a sensitive cell line (early passage NB16), the resistant cell lines (NB7 and late passage NB16) expressed lesser amounts of the death-inducing TRAIL-R1 and R2, and greater levels of survivin, an inhibitor of apoptosis. TRAIL sensitivity was enhanced in resistant cell lines by treating with etoposide that concomitantly increased TRAIL-R expression and diminished survivin expression. Survivin overexpression in a TRAIL-sensitive NB line (early passage NB16) rendered it less sensitive to treatment with TRAIL. Conversely, inhibiting survivin expression in NB3 by antisense oligonucleotides enhanced TRAIL sensitivity. A high survivin/TRAIL-R ratio accurately predicted risk for recurrent disease in primary tumor specimens tested. Conclusions: These findings suggest that TRAIL therapy in combination with specific chemotherapeutic agents may represent an effective therapeutic strategy for NB. The cell's sensitivity to TRAIL is at least partially governed by both TRAIL-R and survivin expression, whereas the ratio between these 2 factors appears to have prognostic value in patients with this disease.
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