Primary neuroblastomas obtained before therapy from 36 patients were studied to determine the frequency of tumors expressing a specific glycosphingolipid, GD2 ganglioside. Total tissue gangliosides were purified by a new partition method, quantitated, and analyzed by high-performance thin-layer chromatography. All 36 neuroblastoma tumors, representing all clinical stages, contained GD2 ganglioside. The mean relative and absolute concentrations of GD2 were substantial (12% of the total tissue gangliosides and 50 nmol/g of tissue) and were independent of the clinical stage of the tumor. In contrast, 6 samples of related but more differentiated tumors (ganglioneuroblastoma and ganglioneuroma) had little or no detectable GD2 (≤1.5% of total gangliosides and ≤4 nmol/g of tissue). These results suggest that GD2 is a sensitive marker for neuroblastoma tissue and may be an excellent target antigen for immunotherapy of this tumor.
This work was supported by grant PDT-270 from the American Cancer Society, USPHS grants CA22794, CA16042, CA27678, and CA36011 and by a grant from the Cancer Research Coordinating Committee, University of California.