As a neuroendocrine tumor, neuroblastoma expresses various gastrointestinal (GI) hormones, such as vasoactive intestinal peptide, gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP), neurotensin, and somatostatin, which exert diverse cellular functions in neuroblastoma. In particular, we have recently found that GRP and its cell surface receptor, GRP-R, are abundantly expressed in neuroblastomas. Moreover, more advanced-stage neuroblastomas demonstrated an increased level of GRP-R, suggesting an important role of GRP in aggressive tumor behavior. This review describes the role of several GI hormones commonly expressed in neuroblastoma and discusses in depth the mitogenic actions of GRP in neuroblastoma. In addition, the molecular mechanisms involved in the GRP-induced stimulation of neuroblastoma cell growth are discussed. Our study results demonstrate a role of GRP as an autocrine/paracrine growth factor and elucidate involvement of specific intracellular signaling, the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase pathway, in the growth regulation of neuroblastoma.
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