Although rare, childhood (paediatric) cancers are a major cause of death in young children. Unlike many adult cancers, paediatric cancers, such as neuroblastoma (NB), are developmental diseases that rarely show genetic predispositions. NB is the most common extracranial solid tumour in children, accounting for ∼15% of paediatric cancer deaths. This heterogeneous cancer arises from undifferentiated neural crest-derived progenitor cells. As neural crest cells are multipotent and migratory, they are often considered the embryonic paradigm of cancer stem cells. However, very little is known about the events that trigger tumour initiation and progression. Here, we discuss recent insights into sympathoadrenal lineage specification, as well as genetic factors associated with NB. With this in mind, we consider the molecular underpinnings of NB in the context of developmental trajectories of the neural crest lineage. This allows us to compare distinct subtypes of the disease and gene-function interactions during sensitive phases of neural crest development.
- Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition
- Neural crest