A mechanistic classification of clinical phenotypes in neuroblastoma

Neuroblastoma is a pediatric tumor of the sympathetic nervous system. Its clinical course ranges from spontaneous tumor regression to fatal progression. To investigate the molecular features of the divergent tumor subtypes, we performed genome sequencing on 416 pretreatment neuroblastomas and assessed telomere maintenance mechanisms in 208 of these tumors. We found that patients whose tumors lacked telomere maintenance mechanisms had an excellent prognosis, whereas the prognosis of patients whose tumors harbored telomere maintenance mechanisms was substantially worse. Survival rates were lowest for neuroblastoma patients whose tumors harbored telomere maintenance mechanisms in combination with RAS and/or p53 pathway mutations. Spontaneous tumor regression occurred both in the presence and absence of these mutations in patients with telomere maintenance–negative tumors. On the basis of these data, we propose a mechanistic classification of neuroblastoma that may benefit the clinical management of patients.