Neuroblastoma and bone metastases: clinical significance and prognostic value of Dickkopf 1 plasma levels

Donatella Granchi, Maria Valeria Corrias, Alberto Garaventa, Serena Rubina Baglìo, Giuliana Cangemi, Barbara Carlini, Paolo Paolucci, Armando Giunti, Nicola Baldini

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26 Citations (Scopus)


The critical role of the Wnt pathway inhibition in sustaining the onset of bone lesions has been demonstrated in a variety of bone diseases and tumors, and it has been associated with cancer aggressiveness. We have previously demonstrated that neuroblastoma cells express Dickkopf 1 (Dkk1), an inhibitor of the canonical Wnt pathway which prevents the differentiation of bone-forming cells. Since Dkk1 is a secreted factor, it could have potential clinical application as tumor marker for detecting bone metastasis and monitoring of disease. In this study, we investigated the diagnostic and prognostic value of Dkk1 plasma levels in 92 children affected by neuroblastoma, including 32 with bone metastases. Fifty-seven children hospitalized for minor surgical problems served as control group. Circulating levels of Dkk1 were higher in healthy children than in normal adults and were comparable to those found in adult patients with aggressive tumors. No significant differences were found between neuroblastoma patients and controls and between patients with and without bone metastases. However, when only patients with metastatic neuroblastoma were considered, the highest Dkk1 levels were detected in patients that poorly responded to induction chemotherapy and in subjects with unamplified MYCN and three or more different metastatic sites. The 'Receiver Operating Characteristic' curve enabled us to identify a threshold value to distinguish patients who were unresponsive to induction treatment. The relationship between Dkk1 and drug resistance was supported by in vitro experiments, since an increased sensitivity to doxorubicin was found in neuroblastoma cells releasing low Dkk1 levels, either constitutively or experimentally following the treatment with specific siRNA. In conclusion, Dkk1 is released by neuroblastoma cells and is able to affect the balance between osteoblastogenesis and osteoclastogenesis, thus favoring the onset of osteolytic metastases. Nevertheless, Dkk1 plasma levels do not allow the detection of bone lesions in neuroblastoma but seem to have a predictive value with regard to the severity and the prognosis of the disease in a subset of patients with metastatic tumor. New knowledge on the biological role of Dkk1 in driving the natural history of neuroblastoma has to be further investigated and could help to establish specific therapeutic strategies able to target key factors of tumor progression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-9
Number of pages8
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011


  • Adult
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Bone Marrow Neoplasms
  • Bone Neoplasms
  • Bone and Bones
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comparative Study
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Journal Article
  • Male
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Retrospective Studies

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