Dr. Parsons’ research has helped to characterize the genetic landscapes of a variety of cancers, including the first identification of IDH1 and IDH2 as critical genes in brain tumors affecting both children and adults (gliomas). His current research primarily focuses on the clinical application of genomic technologies in pediatric cancer care and “precision oncology” strategies for the diagnosis and treatment of children with relapsed and refractory cancers.
Dr. Parsons and Dr. Sharon Plon were the principal investigators of the BASIC3 study (2011-2017), a National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and NCI-funded Clinical Sequencing Exploratory Research (CSER) program project investigating the utility of clinical tumor and blood exome sequencing for children with newly-diagnosed solid tumors. Results of the BASIC3 study have been presented at numerous national and international scientific meetings, including the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG), the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the International Society of Pediatric Oncology (SIOP), and published in journals such as JAMA Oncology, Genome Medicine, and Pediatric Blood & Cancer.
Drs. Parsons, Plon, and Amy McGuire (Director of the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at BCM) are currently leading the NHGRI and NCI-funded Texas KidsCanSeq project as part of the CSER consortium. This study began enrolling both newly-diagnosed and relapsed cancer patients at Texas Children’s Cancer Center in the summer of 2018 and is now expanding to multiple sites around the state for enrollment of more than 1000 patients in order to compare the clinical utility of different types of genomic testing (DNA and RNA mutation panels, exome sequencing, RNA sequencing, and copy number arrays) for the diverse pediatric cancer patients of Texas.
Dr. Parsons is the COG study chair for the NCI-COG Pediatric MATCH study, the first nationwide precision oncology clinical trial for children with relapsed and refractory cancers that opened in July 2017. Pediatric MATCH involves sequencing of patient tumor samples to identify genetic mutations that can serve as targets for molecular therapies, with more than 450 patients screened for “matches” to 10 different investigational drugs as of January 2019. The study also includes analysis of matched patient blood samples to identify inherited mutations related to familial cancer risk.
In addition to these clinical genomics projects, Dr. Parsons’ group is also currently conducting numerous sequencing studies of high-risk and rare pediatric cancers (including a variety of brain tumors, liver tumors, sarcomas, histiocytic disorders, and leukemias), with goals of revealing tumor biology, identifying potential molecular targets for therapy, and facilitating pre-clinical characterization of novel therapeutics.
Dr. Parsons has published more than 60 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals, including: Science, Nature, the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA Oncology, and Genome Medicine. He has been awarded numerous honors for his research, such as the Peter A. Steck Memorial Award for Brain Tumor Research (2009). Parsons is a Graham Cancer Research Scholar at Texas Children’s Cancer Center and has received funding from multiple sources to support his work on the genetic causes of pediatric cancers, such as the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), the National Human Genome Research Institute, the National Cancer Institute, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the Gillson-Longenbaugh Foundation, the American Brain Tumor Association, the American Society for Clinical Oncology, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Sidney Kimmel Foundation, and the Sontag Foundation.