Druggable targets in pediatric neurocutaneous melanocytosis: Molecular and drug sensitivity studies in xenograft and ex vivo tumor cell culture to identify agents for therapy
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BACKGROUND: Neurocutaneous melanocytosis (NCM) is a rare congenital disorder that presents with pigmented cell lesions of the brain or leptomeninges in children with large or multiple congenital melanocytic nevi. Although the exact pathological processes involved are currently unclear, NCM appears to arise from an abnormal development of melanoblasts or melanocyte precursors. Currently, it has an extremely poor prognosis due to rapid disease progression and lack of effective treatment modalities. METHODS: In this study, we report on an experimental approach to examining NCM cells by establishing subcutaneous tumors in nude mice, which can be further expanded for conducting molecular and drug sensitivity experiments. RESULTS: Analysis of the NRAS gene-coding sequences of an established NCM cell line (YP-MEL) and NCM patient cells revealed heterogeneity in NRAS Q61K that activated mutation and possibly consequential differential sensitivity to MEK inhibition. Gene expression studies were performed to compare the molecular profiles of NCM cells with normal skin fibroblasts. In vitro cytotoxicity screens of libraries of targeted small-molecule inhibitors revealed prospective agents for further evaluation. CONCLUSIONS: Our studies provide an experimental platform for the generation of NCM cells for preclinical studies and the production of molecular and in vitro data with which to identify druggable targets for the treatment.
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