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New Program Seeks to Characterize Childhood Cancers

The new comprehensive, country-wide database will help with diagnosis and future research

Photo portrait of Ian Black
Ian Black, MsComm, MSc
Photo portrait of Ian Black

Ian is the editorial assistant for LabX, Today's Clinical Lab, and Lab Manager. Before joining the team he obtained a masters in science communication from Laurentian University and an MSc in biology from Brock University. He has published several peer-reviewed papers and has a strong passion for sharing science with the world.

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Published:Mar 28, 2022
|2 min read
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The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has launched the Molecular Characterization Initiative for pediatric tumors, which seeks to offer biomarker testing to children and young adults with central nervous system tumors. This initiative is in support of the Biden Administration’s Cancer Moonshot goal for sharing cancer research.

By helping build a precise diagnosis of a patient’s tumor, doctors will be able to choose the most effective and least toxic treatments for each individual. Additionally, this can help researchers understand the causes of childhood cancers on a molecular level, assisting with the development of new treatments.

“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,” said Douglas S. Hawkins, MD, group chair of Children’s Oncology Group (COG), in a press release for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Enrollment in the initiative will initially be offered through Project:EveryChild, a registry maintained by COG. Participants will have tumor and blood samples taken and sent for analysis, the results of which will be made readily available to their families within 21 days. From there, personal information will be removed and the data will be aggregated into a database for future research. The database will make tumor molecular characterization broadly available throughout the country rather than being exclusively stored and accessible at the institution where a child is treated.

The Molecular Characterization Initiative will not only provide information useful for making accurate diagnoses but can also be used to determine if a patient is eligible for clinical trials.

“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,” said Brigitte C. Widemann, MD, special advisor to the NCI director for childhood cancer, in the recent NIH press release. “The Molecular Characterization Initiative is a transformative collaboration that will entail participation of the entire community.”