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The clinical utility of genomics in childhood cancer extends beyond targetable mutations

Survival of children with relapsed cancer remains unacceptably low. Cancer genomic profiling may identify new therapeutic options, enhance diagnostic accuracy, and improve understanding of tumors’ origins and continued evolution. We deeply sequenced 864 cancer-associated genes and the complete genomes and transcriptomes for 300 pediatric and adolescent/young adult (AYA) patients with poor prognosis or rare tumors. Using integrative somatic-germline analyses, we assessed the clinical utility of cancer genomics in this population. We analyzed tumor mutational signatures and burden to interrogate the relevance of germline variants in DNA repair genes and the impact of therapeutic exposures on tumor evolution. We also evaluated the frequency of changes to tumor drivers and therapeutic targets at relapse in those with serial samples. Integrative analysis yielded clinically actionable variants in a majority of patients. Improved diagnostic accuracy led to modified management in a subset. Therapeutically targetable variants were of unanticipated timing and type, with many of these derived from the germline. Enrichment in corroborating mutational signature 3 (‘BRCAness’) in patients with germline homologous recombination defects suggests they are drivers of pediatric cancers and potential targets for PARP inhibition. We show that mutation burden, which may in part be driven by prior therapeutic exposures, was significantly elevated in a minority of patients. Over one-third of patients with sequential samples analyzed showed a change in therapeutically-targetable drivers. Comprehensive somatic-germline cancer genomic profiling is useful at multiple points in the care trajectory for pediatric/AYA patients, supporting its integration into early clinical management. Re-biopsy at the time of relapse should be considered, and specific attention to mutational burden is indicated. Defective DNA repair genes in the germline may represent important targetable drivers.

Click on a Dataset ID in the table below to learn more, and to find out who to contact about access to these data

Dataset ID Description Technology Samples
EGAD00001009675 NextSeq 500 2
EGAD00001009676 Illumina HiSeq 2500 Illumina NovaSeq 6000 NextSeq 500 221
Publications Citations
The clinical utility of integrative genomics in childhood cancer extends beyond targetable mutations.
Nat Cancer 4: 2023 203-221
Diagnostic classification of childhood cancer using multiscale transcriptomics.
Nat Med 29: 2023 656-666