Patients at Leeds Children’s Hospital and Sheffield Children’s Hospital are among those who will benefit from the “exciting” step towards offering personalised treatment.
The initiative is the first stage of a wider programme which aims to provide testing for all children with solid tumours in the UK and to direct them into clinical trials targeting particular mutations within their tumours, the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) said.
At first, 400 children being treated at 21 hospitals across the UK will receive the test - which identifies key mutations in tumours.
The test, developed by scientists at the ICR and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London, will initially be open to children under the age of 14 with solid tumours.
Results will firstly be assessed by researchers and if proved successful, it is hoped the tests could be used in clinics to help doctors decide how to most effectively treat patients.
Karen Capel, founder and trustee of UK children’s cancer charity Christopher’s Smile – which funded the development of the test, said: “There is an urgent unmet need to provide new treatments for those children diagnosed with the most aggressive and hard-to-treat cancers.
“We believe this gene sequencing test is the key foundation stone in enabling personalised medicine for children. It will help to bring new treatments for children a step closer.
“We believe that children should be given access to the same tests and treatments currently available to adults.
“When our son died in 2008 there was no biological information available to clinicians about individual children’s tumours. This test is a first for children.
“Our aim is that it will change the landscape for children and open doors to potential new trials with new treatments, benefiting those children who receive the worst prognosis.”
A spokesman for Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said: “We are delighted that patients from Leeds Children’s Hospital will be taking part in this new initiative. As well as being a major research centre in our own right we participate in a wide range of national and international studies where we believe there will be a significant benefit for current and future patients.”
Study leader Louis Chesler, professor of paediatric cancer biology at the ICR and consultant at the Royal Marsden, added: “A more comprehensive and structured approach to genetic testing to match children with cancer to specific targeted treatments could be an incredibly important step towards increasing survival.
“It’s exciting to be testing out this new approach to genetic testing in several hundred children with cancer, in what I hope will be a staging post towards routine use of genomic information for the care of all children with cancer in the UK.”