Newly diagnosed cancer patients under 25 are now eligible to receive a cutting-edge DNA test to provide a precise diagnosis for individualized treatment for their cancer. The tests, known as “tumor molecular characterization,” or biomarker testing, will be available free of charge at affiliated hospitals, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) announced on March 22.

The Molecular Characterization Initiative (MCI) helps to provide a precise diagnosis and determine the most effective treatment for a broader range of patients at more affordable costs than currently available methods of treatment. Researchers are granted access to de-identified MCI data (DNA and RNA from tumor and blood samples) to be used in the improvement of cancer clinical trials and research projects on the origins and drivers of childhood cancer.

The initiative focuses on children, adolescents, and young adults (AYAs) with central nervous system tumors who are receiving care at a hospital affiliated with the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), an NCI-supported clinical trial organization for childhood and adolescent cancer research.

“We can help make molecular characterization available throughout the country so that it will be a standard of care that every child can get,” said Maryam Fouladi, M.D., Committee Leader at the Children’s Oncology Group. “An accurate molecular diagnosis can inform optimal treatment for every child.”

The MCI is part of the Biden administration’s resurrected Cancer Moonshot Initiative, a nationwide project against cancer that then-Vice President Biden launched in 2016. In addition to three initial goals—increased government support of cancer R&D, increased collaboration, and improved data networking—the renewed effort seeks to reduce the mortality rate of cancer by 50 percent over the next 25 years and ameliorate conditions for cancer patients, survivors, and family.

Eligibility requirements are expected to expand to cover children and AYAs with other rare tumors outside of COG hospitals by late 2022 and 2023.