Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Gliomas do not have a cure. There are many doctors and researchers working to find the solution to this terrible disease. The tumor is inoperable due to its delicate location in the pons. This area controls vital functions such as breathing and heart rate. The growth pattern of this type of tumor also makes it impossible to remove. Other treatment options have and continue to be explored including radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapies and more! We will discuss three types of treatments below and review the latest news.
Chemotherapy is a typical treatment for cancers, but it has not had the most promising results when used to treat DIPG in the past. Most types of chemotherapy unfortunately did not shrink the tumors or extend life expectancy. Scientists believed this could have been because the chemo was not able to cross the blood brain barrier and therefore had no effect. The blood brain barrier is a structure meant to protect the brain from foreign substances passing into the vital organ and causing damage. A recent study at the University of Colorado Cancer Center gave participants a dose of a chemotherapy drug called gemcitabine prior to a tumor biopsy. The researchers measured the chemo drug levels in the tissue collected from biopsy and realized that the drug was present in a high concentration. They have discovered that the chemo is in fact reaching the tumor, it just isn’t having the desired effects. This means that chemotherapy is still a promising research path, we just need to find the right type to treat this pediatric brain tumor!
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. (2020, March 25). Despite failures, chemo still promising against dangerous childhood brain cancer, DIPG. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 29, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200325212207.htm
Researchers at the Stanford University of Medicine have conducted promising research using a new FDA approved drug, panobinostat, to treat DIPG tumors. Panobinostat was approved for treatment of blood cancer, but may also help to restrict tumor growth for DIPG patients. In mouse models, it helped improve survival time. The drug is able to repair defective DIPG cells and help treat patients. There is some research that the cancer cells may be able to become resistant to the drug. Although this is not an outright cure for DIPG, it is a promising treatment and will likely be able to be combined with other drugs and treatments in order to help children!
Existing Drug May Treat the Deadliest Childhood Brain Tumor, Stanford-led Study Finds. (2015, May 4). Retrieved December 29, 2020, from www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/about/news/releases/2015/existing-drug-may-treat-the-deadliest-childhood-brain-tumor
Re-irradiation, a second round of radiation, is being considered more often for DIPG treatment. It is standard practice for most DIPG patients to undergo a round of radiation after initial diagnosis. This helps to improve symptoms and can shrink tumors, but it is not a cure. Until recently, a second round of radiation was not typically an option because any radiation comes with risk and it was not thought to be safe. After recent research including a study done through the University of Cincinnati, it has been shown that given the correct circumstances re-irradiation can be a safe option. The safety and effectiveness of this treatment will be evaluated based on other treatments that the child has received including radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy. The process is very similar to the first round of radiation, using external delivery and distributed over multiple sessions. There are currently clinical trials testing the effectiveness of this potential treatment!
Desserich, K. (2020, November 02). DIPG Re-irradiation Side Effects and Considerations. Retrieved December 29, 2020, from dipg.org/blog/dipg-re-irradiation-side-effects-and-considerations/
DIPG affects about 300 children and families in the US every year. This devastating disease has an expected survival time of 9 months. There are many dedicated professionals working to find a cure. They are working to find the piece that will complete the puzzle and end DIPG. To learn more about DIPG and make a donation, visit cristianriverafoundation.org
By Grace Ison