Cell-Free RNA from Plasma in Patients with Neuroblastoma: Exploring the Technical and Clinical Potential

Nathalie S.M. Lak, Anne Seijger, Lieke M.J. van Zogchel, Nina U. Gelineau, Ahmad Javadi, Lily Zappeij-Kannegieter, Laura Bongiovanni, Anneloes Andriessen, Janine Stutterheim, C. Ellen van der Schoot, Alain de Bruin, Godelieve A.M. Tytgat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neuroblastoma affects mostly young children, bearing a high morbidity and mortality. Liquid biopsies, e.g., molecular analysis of circulating tumor-derived nucleic acids in blood, offer a minimally invasive diagnostic modality. Cell-free RNA (cfRNA) is released by all cells, especially cancer. It circulates in blood packed in extracellular vesicles (EV) or attached to proteins. We studied the feasibility of analyzing cfRNA and EV, isolated by size exclusion chromatography (SEC), from platelet-poor plasma from healthy controls (n = 40) and neuroblastoma patients with localized (n = 10) and metastatic disease (n = 30). The mRNA content was determined using several multiplex droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) assays for a neuroblastoma-specific gene panel (PHOX2B, TH, CHRNA3) and a cell cycle regulation panel (E2F1, CDC6, ATAD2, H2AFZ, MCM2, DHFR). We applied corrections for the presence of platelets. We demonstrated that neuroblastoma-specific markers were present in plasma from 14/30 patients with metastatic disease and not in healthy controls and patients with localized disease. Most cell cycle markers had a higher expression in patients. The mRNA markers were mostly present in the EV-enriched SEC fractions. In conclusion, cfRNA can be isolated from plasma and EV and analyzed using multiplex ddPCR. cfRNA is an interesting novel liquid biopsy-based target to explore further.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2023


  • cell-free RNA
  • extracellular vesicles
  • liquid biopsies
  • neuroblastoma
  • pediatric
  • solid tumors


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