The Molecular Characterization Laboratory performs genomic sequencing in support of clinical and preclinical studies sponsored by the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis.  

Our facility includes a research laboratory and CLIA-certified laboratories that support clinical testing. We follow rigorous procedures and protocols to ensure that our analyses are of the highest quality.  

In addition to our production-level assays, our laboratory develops cutting-edge genomic technologies for research and clinical laboratory analyses. 

Patient Derived Models Repository workflow
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NCI Patient-Derived Models Repository

We conduct all next-generation sequencing (NGS) and profiling for tumor models in the NCI Patient-Derived Models Repository, which is managed by Frederick National Laboratory’s Applied and Developmental Research Directorate. Our laboratory also reviews and confirms the histology of all mouse models of human tumors held in the repository. View the broad collection of patient-derived cancer models, clinically annotated with molecular information, available within an easily accessible database.

Technology advancing cancer diagnosis and treatments 

We develop cutting-edge assays to utilize in research areas that include liquid biopsies, single-cell sequencing, spatial transcriptomics, quick-response leukemia diagnosis and subtyping, and other emerging fields of biological interest.  

The Molecular Characterizations Laboratory’s goal is to provide the latest solutions to problems inherent in understanding the genomic underpinnings of response or resistance to treatments. We work with NCI and its cooperative groups to provide the multi-omic analytical framework necessary to advance cancer patient care. 

We team with commercial, academic, and governmental collaborators to create assays to monitor therapies longitudinally, detect minimal residual disease, and set standards that can be applied across genomic centers. 


New genomic technologies support the next generation of precision medicine trials 

We provide genomic assays in support of NCI’s Experimental Therapeutics Clinical Trials Network, a coalition of the nation’s top cancer centers that conducts early phase clinical trials. Our group works with NCI’s National Clinical Trials Network to provide a new generation of assays for three large precision medicine initiatives: MyeloMATCH, ComboMATCH, and iMATCH.   

For MyeloMATCH, we screen acute myeloid leukemia patients using an automated next-generation sequencing system with a targeted panel, providing a two-day turnaround time.   

For ComboMATCH, we qualified a network of approximately 40 commercial and academic laboratories that perform patient screening.  

For iMATCH, we validated clinical assays that measure the tumor mutational burden and tumor inflammation signature, values used for patient stratification.  


Our capabilities and specializations

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Cutting-edge genomics technologies 

We use the latest genomics technologies to support exploratory research at the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis. 

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  • TSO 500 ctDNA assay 

  • T-Cell Receptor Sequencing (TCRseq) 

  • Myeloid Assay (NCI Myeloid Assay) 

  • Single-cell RNA sequencing: 10x Genomics Chromium  

  • Spatial multi-omics: NanoString GeoMX 

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Molecular profiling of tumors and confirmation of tumor histology for patient-derived models 

We perform all molecular profiling for the NCI Patient-Derived Models Repository, having established more than 1,000 patient-derived mouse, cellular, and organoid models for the research community. Our team also reviews all mouse models to confirm that the histology of the tumor growing in the mouse matches that obtained from the patient. The goal of this work is to funnel all the data we generated into a public-facing website, allowing the genomics and transcriptomics data from the models to be made available to the research community. 

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  • Whole-exome and whole-transcriptome sequencing 

  • Multi-omic model analyses of biological processes behind common and rare cancers 

  • Identification of biomarkers from patient-derived models to guide therapy selection for preclinical testing of drug combinations 

Scientist working under a safety hood at a workbench
Analytical assay validation

Genomic support for NCI-MATCH and Pediatric MATCH clinical trials

Our scientists were integral to the planning and execution of the landmark National Cancer Institute Molecular Analysis for Therapy Choice (NCI-MATCH) and Pediatric MATCH clinical trials. These projects seek to make precision medicine more versatile by determining whether drugs that treat one cancer with a certain mutation can treat other types of cancer with the same mutation. We established and participated in a central laboratory network that developed and validated a next-generation sequencing assay that screened the first 6,000 NCI-MATCH patients.
Researcher working with a multi-pipette at a laboratory workbench
Community Testing

Cancer Moonshot Biobank provides tumor genomic sequencing to underserved communities

Through the Cancer Moonshot Biobank, patients from underserved communities are provided state-of-the-art, next-generation sequencing tumor testing before standard of care treatment and at time of relapse. The goal is to learn why some people with cancer respond to treatment and others do not. We established an electronic consent process with educational videos to help cancer patients and their families understand the enrollment requirements and goals of this clinical trial.