Molecular-guided therapy for the treatment of patients with relapsed and refractory childhood cancers: a Beat Childhood Cancer Research Consortium trial

Genome Med. 2024 Feb 12;16(1):28. doi: 10.1186/s13073-024-01297-5.


Background: Children with relapsed central nervous system (CNS tumors), neuroblastoma, sarcomas, and other rare solid tumors face poor outcomes. This prospective clinical trial examined the feasibility of combining genomic and transcriptomic profiling of tumor samples with a molecular tumor board (MTB) approach to make real‑time treatment decisions for children with relapsed/refractory solid tumors.

Methods: Subjects were divided into three strata: stratum 1-relapsed/refractory neuroblastoma; stratum 2-relapsed/refractory CNS tumors; and stratum 3-relapsed/refractory rare solid tumors. Tumor samples were sent for tumor/normal whole-exome (WES) and tumor whole-transcriptome (WTS) sequencing, and the genomic data were used in a multi-institutional MTB to make real‑time treatment decisions. The MTB recommended plan allowed for a combination of up to 4 agents. Feasibility was measured by time to completion of genomic sequencing, MTB review and initiation of treatment. Response was assessed after every two cycles using Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST). Patient clinical benefit was calculated by the sum of the CR, PR, SD, and NED subjects divided by the sum of complete response (CR), partial response (PR), stable disease (SD), no evidence of disease (NED), and progressive disease (PD) subjects. Grade 3 and higher related and unexpected adverse events (AEs) were tabulated for safety evaluation.

Results: A total of 186 eligible patients were enrolled with 144 evaluable for safety and 124 evaluable for response. The average number of days from biopsy to initiation of the MTB-recommended combination therapy was 38 days. Patient benefit was exhibited in 65% of all subjects, 67% of neuroblastoma subjects, 73% of CNS tumor subjects, and 60% of rare tumor subjects. There was little associated toxicity above that expected for the MGT drugs used during this trial, suggestive of the safety of utilizing this method of selecting combination targeted therapy.

Conclusions: This trial demonstrated the feasibility, safety, and efficacy of a comprehensive sequencing model to guide personalized therapy for patients with any relapsed/refractory solid malignancy. Personalized therapy was well tolerated, and the clinical benefit rate of 65% in these heavily pretreated populations suggests that this treatment strategy could be an effective option for relapsed and refractory pediatric cancers.

Trial registration:, NCT02162732. Prospectively registered on June 11, 2014.

Keywords: CNS tumors; Genomic sequencing; Molecular-guided therapy; Neuroblastoma; Orphan diseases; Pediatric oncology; Rare tumors.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / adverse effects
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / drug therapy
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / etiology
  • Neuroblastoma* / drug therapy
  • Neuroblastoma* / genetics

Associated data