NCI launches program to offer molecular characterization of childhood cancers. Available at: Published March 21, 2022. Accessed March 21, 2022.

March 21, 2022
2 min read

NCI program to provide molecular characterization of childhood cancers


NCI launches program to offer molecular characterization of childhood cancers. Available at: Published March 21, 2022. Accessed March 21, 2022.

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National Cancer Institute announced the launch of a program that offers molecular characterization of childhood cancers.

The Molecular Characterization Initiative would provide biomarker testing free of charge to children, adolescents and young adults with newly diagnosed central nervous system tumors who are receiving treatment at Children’s Oncology Group (COG)-affiliated hospitals, according to an NCI press release. Results of tumor and blood DNA and RNA analysis will help clinicians make an accurate diagnosis and determine the best possible treatment plans, including whether a child is eligible for a clinical trial.

Three-dimensional molecular model.
Source: Adobe Stock.

“The ultimate dream has really been for every child with cancer to have a state-of-the-art diagnosis and the safest and most effective therapy,” Brigitte C. Widemann, MD, special advisor to the NCI director for childhood cancer, said in the press release. “The Molecular Characterization Initiative is a transformative collaboration that will entail participation of the entire community.”

The program is available through NCI’s Childhood Cancer Data Initiative, which aims to promote data collection and sharing among childhood cancer researchers. Tumor molecular characterization will be made broadly available for children across the United States. In addition, data collected through the program will be stored in a central location for researchers, who can use it to better understand the molecular causes of childhood cancers and to develop more effective and possibly less toxic therapies, according to the press release.

“The game changer for patients is that we’re going to understand the patient’s disease precisely and comprehensively in a way that we’ve done piecemeal so far,” Douglas S. Hawkins, MD, COG group chair, said in the press release.

Such an understanding is essential to provide every child with the best treatment, according to Maryam Fouladi, MD, COG’s central nervous system tumor disease committee leader.

“We can apply molecular diagnostics to a child diagnosed with a high-grade glioma and find out that it is actually a low-grade glioma or an entirely different tumor, which may need very different treatments and have a very different outcome,” she said in the release. “Molecular diagnostics can really contribute to getting the correct diagnosis, offering the optimal treatment and, ultimately, improving the patient’s outcome.”

The Molecular Characterization Initiative will expand later this year to include soft tissue sarcomas and other rare tumors and, in late 2022 and 2023, to children and AYAs outside of COG-affiliated hospitals, as well as those with other childhood cancers and those whose cancer has returned, according to NCI.

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