Molecular characteristics and therapeutic vulnerabilities across paediatric solid tumours

David T W Jones, Ana Banito, Thomas G P Grünewald, Michelle Haber, Natalie Jäger, Marcel Kool, Till Milde, Jan J Molenaar, Arash Nabbi, Trevor J Pugh, Gudrun Schleiermacher, Malcolm A Smith, Frank Westermann, Stefan M Pfister

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The spectrum of tumours arising in childhood is fundamentally different from that seen in adults, and they are known to be divergent from adult malignancies in terms of cellular origins, epidemiology, genetic complexity, driver mutations and underlying mutational processes. Despite the immense knowledge generated through sequencing efforts and functional characterization of identified (epi-)genetic alterations over the past decade, the clinical implications of this knowledge have so far been limited. Novel preclinical platforms such as the European Innovative Therapies for Children with Cancer-Paediatric Preclinical Proof-of-Concept Platform and the US-based Pediatric Preclinical Testing Consortium are being developed to try to change this by aiming to recapitulate the extensive heterogeneity of paediatric tumours and thereby, hopefully, improve the ability to predict clinical benefit. Numerous studies have also been established worldwide to provide patients with access to real-time molecular profiling and the possibility of more precise mechanism-of-action-based treatments. In addition to tumour-intrinsic findings and mechanisms, ongoing studies are investigating features such as the immune microenvironment of paediatric tumours in comparison with adult cancers - currently of very timely clinical relevance. However, there is an ongoing need for rigorous preclinical biomarker and target validation to feed into the next generation of molecularly stratified clinical trials. This Review aims to provide a comprehensive state-of-the-art overview of the molecular landscape of paediatric solid tumours, including their underlying genomic alterations and interactions with the microenvironment, complemented with our current understanding of potential therapeutic vulnerabilities and how these can be preclinically tested using more accurate predictive methods. Finally, we provide an outlook on the challenges and opportunities associated with translating this overwhelming scientific progress into real clinical benefit.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)420-438
Number of pages19
JournalNature reviews. Cancer
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


  • Cell Cycle
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Europe
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Immune System
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms/genetics
  • Pediatrics/methods
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tumor Microenvironment
  • United States


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