Guest Blog–National Cancer Institute Launches Molecular Characterization Initiative for Childhood Cancer Research

The National Cancer Institute’s new Molecular Characterization Initiative (MCI) fosters data sharing in childhood cancer research. The program currently offers comprehensive molecular characterization of tumors to children, adolescents, and young adults (AYAs) with newly diagnosed central nervous system tumors receiving care at hospitals affiliated with the Children’s Oncology Group. 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, with results shared with families and doctors within 21 days. This detailed information about the cancer can be used to make a more precise diagnosis, choose the most effective and potentially least toxic treatments, and determine eligibility for clinical trials.

In 2022, MCI will expand to participants with soft tissue sarcomas and other rare tumors. In late 2022 and 2023, it will expand to children and AYAs outside of Children’s Oncology Group–affiliated hospitals, those with other childhood cancers, and those whose cancer has returned. 

An important goal is to make this type of analysis broadly available for children and AYAs. The data collected will have personal health information removed and be made accessible to researchers, who can use it to guide future studies. By sharing data, we aim to make quicker progress developing treatments, especially for childhood cancers for which treatment options are limited.  

MCI is part of the National Cancer Institute’s Childhood Cancer Data Initiative, which launched in 2019 to promote data sharing and generate new data on childhood cancers.