Predicting neuroblastoma using developmental signals and a logic-based model


Genomic information from human patient samples of pediatric neuroblastoma cancers and known outcomes have led to specific gene lists put forward as high risk for disease progression. However, the reliance on gene expression correlations rather than mechanistic insight has shown limited potential and suggests a critical need for molecular network models that better predict neuroblastoma progression. In this study, we construct and simulate a molecular network of developmental genes and downstream signals in a 6-gene input logic model that predicts a favorable/unfavorable outcome based on the outcome of the four cell states including cell differentiation, proliferation, apoptosis, and angiogenesis. We simulate the mis-expression of the tyrosine receptor kinases, trkA and trkB, two prognostic indicators of neuroblastoma, and find differences in the number and probability distribution of steady state outcomes. We validate the mechanistic model assumptions using RNAseq of the SHSY5Y human neuroblastoma cell line to define the input states and confirm the predicted outcome with antibody staining. Lastly, we apply input gene signatures from 77 published human patient samples and show that our model makes more accurate disease outcome predictions for early stage disease than any current neuroblastoma gene list. These findings highlight the predictive strength of a logic-based model based on developmental genes and offer a better understanding of the molecular network interactions during neuroblastoma disease progression.