Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), is a type of a brain tumor that majorly affects children below the age of ten. This aggressive brain tumor that spreads quickly has no cure. Radiation treatment only temporarily helps alleviate the symptoms. Just like we don’t have answers on how to cure it, we don’t exactly know what causes DIPG. Finding the cause will advance our efforts in finding the cure.
Some cancers are caused due to environmental factors like exposure to radiation or smoking while others are caused because of inherited genes. In the case of DIPG, there is no evidence that supports these two causes.
According to studies, DIPG formation may be linked to the development of the brain. Certain cells in the brain are present in a higher concentration in the development stages. Research suggests that these cells are responsible for causing DIPG. As we mentioned before, DIPG affects children and this could be the answer to why.
Furthermore, scientists who have studied DIPG, have identified the epigenetic and genetic mutation in the pons. When cells, that use DNA to create new cells or to carry out various functions in the body, are unable to do so because the DNA becomes damaged, it is called genetic mutation. These mutated cells are why cancers are caused. Through genetic sequencing, researchers have learned more about the exact genetic mutations that cause DIPG. More studies are underway.
Dr. Eric Raabe, at John Hopkins University, is studying the effect of this genetic mutation on the formation of DIPG. He has found in DIPG, the cancerous cells multiply more than necessary which makes the tumor grow quickly. Through his reach, Dr. Raabe found that the overactive behavior of an enzyme called TET causes the cancer cells to multiply more than necessary. This may be the cause and targetting the enzyme may help in finding a cure.
Join Marc Jr Foundation’s efforts to spread awareness about DIPG and fund research to find a cure for it. So that the next time, when we talk about DIPG, we can talk about DIPG survivors.
Mahatma Gandhi rightly said, “The future depends on what you do today.” That is how it is with DIPG. Our efforts TODAY will shape TOMORROW.
Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) has no cure, so far. When we talk about the prognosis of DIPG there are two views to adopt. One the prognosis of a child diagnosed with it and two, the prognosis of the medical condition generally in the future.
When it comes to the prognosis for an individual, exact prediction of what will happen is not possible. The DIPG patient may survive for few months. About 10% of DIPG patients survive for two years . Radiation therapy may help to prolong the lifespan by few months. Also, the prognosis can change at several stages of your therapy. The average survival time is of 9 months.
Michigan Medicine’s Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Initiative recently conducted a study. The findings of this study pointed out that the extent with which the DIPG tumor penetrates the surrounding tissue in the brain plays a huge role in determining the prognosis.
More studies like these are being conducted by researchers to understand the biology of DIPG and find a cure. The future for this looks bright. Revolutionary application of biotechnology and bioinformatics in the field of medicine can help cure DIPG. Work by people like Dr. Michelle Monje at Stanford University and Dr. Nicholas Vitanza at Seattle Children’s Hospital, along with many other researchers shows that we are close to finding a cure for DIPG. But there is still a long way to go.
A child diagnosed with DIPG sadly faces the same prognosis as a child did four decades ago. Which is why there is a need for more research and funding that can back that research. That is one of the aims we have at Marc Jr Foundation.
No cure has been found for Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) yet but efforts are being made to find a cure. However, there are steps that can be taken to ensure that your child goes through less pain. Let’s understand what is the current scenario and why certain conventional treatment options do not work permanently.
Why brain surgery is not possible:
Unlike other tumors, DIPG cannot be removed through surgery. DIPG occurs in the pons of the brain stem. A medical professional cannot conduct surgery in that part without damaging the brain tissue surrounding it, making surgery highly dangerous.
DIPG is not a well-defined tumor. It spreads between brain cells and has no definite boundaries. It also grows rapidly. This is another reason why surgery is not possible.
However, sometimes, when MRI scan results are atypical, a medical professional may need to perform a biopsy and extract a small part of the tumor for diagnosis. Also, surgery may be performed in case of hydrocephalus (build-up of pressure in the brain due to DIPG). Endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV) is performed to treat this condition. When this is not possible surgery may be performed to place permanent shunts in the brain.
About DIPG and radiation therapy:
Radiation therapy is only a temporary form of treatment and the only one that can make the DIPG tumor shrink.
Radiation therapy can help provide relief from various symptoms of DIPG like nausea, fatigue, imbalance, loss of muscle movement, blurry vision etc.
After a short span of time, the tumor will begin to grow again. On average, radiation therapy increases the survival time of a DIPG patient by three months.
Experimental chemotherapy and its impact:
Around 250 trials have been conducted in the last three decades where chemotherapy drugs have been used on DIPG patients. However, they haven’t proven useful. Studies are being conducted even today in this field.
Depending upon personal beliefs, alternative therapy options like acupressure, acupuncture, massage, use of herbs etc. can help in managing the pain that arises because of the growth of DIPG tumor or due to the side effects of radiation therapy and experimental therapy.
To know more about DIPG, you can read our other blogs and educational resources. Marc Jr Foundation is always there for you.