NCI Launches Molecular Characterization Initiative for Childhood Cancer Research

NCI has launched the Molecular Characterization Initiative (MCI), a program that offers tumor molecular characterization (also called biomarker testing) to children, adolescents, and young adults (AYAs), starting with children/AYAs who have been newly diagnosed with central nervous system tumors and are receiving care at hospitals affiliated with the Children’s Oncology Group. A part of NCI’s Childhood Cancer Data Initiative, which launched in 2019 to promote data sharing and generate new data on childhood cancers, MCI’s goal is to make the data from children and AYAs broadly available to influence treatment options and enhance pediatric cancer community research.

The DNA and RNA in participants’ tumors are analyzed through this voluntary, free program. Participants’ tumor and blood samples are analyzed in an accredited lab, and results will be shared with families and doctors within 21 days. This detailed cancer information can be used to make a more precise diagnosis, choose the most effective and potentially least toxic treatments, and determine eligibility for clinical trials.

The data collected will have personal health information removed, being made accessible via the NCI Cancer Research Data Commons to researchers who can use the data to guide future studies. By sharing data, NCI aims to make quicker progress developing treatments, especially for childhood cancers for which treatment options are limited.

Later this year and next, MCI will expand to participants with soft tissue sarcomas and other rare tumors as well as expand to children and AYAs outside of the Children’s Oncology Group—i.e., affiliated hospitals, those with other childhood cancers, and those whose cancer has returned.

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