A new initiative launched by the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute (NCI) on March 21 will bring a state-of-the art diagnostic option to children, adolescents, and young adults who have recently been diagnosed with central nervous system tumors. The Molecular Characterization Initiative offers patients access to tumor molecular characterization, a method that provides a more accurate diagnosis and more information and what is causing the cancer and allowing it to progress.
The new program will only be available to patients receiving treatment at hospitals affiliated with the Children’s Oncology Group, which includes more than 200 institutions and hospitals that treat most children diagnosed with cancer in the US. NCI plans to expand the program later in 2022 to include rare tumors such as soft tissue sarcomas.
Key advantages of the new program include:
- Helps doctors choose the safest and most effective treatment for the child
- Helps ensure the most accurate diagnosis
- Data collected from the initiative will help researchers better understand the molecular causes of childhood cancers, which may help in the development of better treatments
- The resulting data will also be available in a central location to make it easier for researchers to access and share
- Expands how many children can access tumor molecular characterization, previously limited to only those in certain clinical trials or being treated at larger institutions
- Can help determine patient’s eligibility for clinical trials
Program enrollment will first be offered via participation in the Project:EveryChild cancer registry. The first participants will be made up of children, adolescents, and young adults recently diagnosed with cancer, who were age 25 or younger when they were diagnosed.
How the Program Will Work
- Participants’ blood and tumor samples will be sent to an accredited lab to be analyzed with the results available to participants and their families within 21 days
- After patients’ personal information is removed, the molecular data will be stored in a database for scientists to use in future research
“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 a press release on the new program. “The Molecular Characterization Initiative is a transformative collaboration that will entail participation of the entire community.”