New genetic testing for children with neuroblastoma

Scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research and Royal Marsden Hospital have developed a new genetic test that will be given to children with solid tumours in an effort to analyse genetic changes in 81 cancer genes, with funding from Christopher Smile.

This is the first stage of an initiative to bring these tests to all children diagnosed with a solid tumour and will look to sample around 400 childhood solid tumours over the next two years. The aim is to use the results from these samples to drive development of clinical trials investigating drugs targeting specific genetic changes in the tumours, moving towards personalised medicine for children affected by cancer – an opportunity that is becoming increasingly available for adults.

In adult cancer treatment there are many molecular-targeted drugs but these are very often unavailable to children. This is because the smaller patient population makes clinical trials difficult as well as the lack of routine genetic testing of childhood tumours which means that the targets are less well known. These targeted therapies are tailored to the child and often come with fewer side-effects than current therapies.

The tests will initially be offered at the Royal Marsden hospital and will be rolled out to 20 other centres around the UK which form part of the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG).

Chief Executive of Solving Kids’ Cancer says: “This is a fantastic step forward in the treatment of children with the highest-risk cancers. For too long children have been treated with ‘one-size-fits-all’ chemotherapy drugs that can cause major side effects. This new test will open doors for researchers to find targeted, more effective therapies that will make a real difference, not only to the treatments these children receive but to the quality of life post-treatment”.