The recent International Symposium on Molecular epidemiology in Embryonal Tumours and Paediatric Leukaemia was held on 4–6 March 2008 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It proved a very productive meeting in which studies relating to genetics, therapeutical trials, identification of risk factors in acute leukaemia neuroblastoma and Wilms’ tumours were presented. Over 120 participants gathered for three days of fruitful discussions, including representatives of paediatrics, haematology, laboratory, epidemiology and pathology. Debates were held about strategies of applications of important biomarkers for clinical trials. Highlights of each of the scientific presentations are summarized below.