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When 40 Police Departments Surprised Emma, A 7-Year-Old Battling DIPG

Emma Mertens, DIPG

Sometimes it takes only one act of kindness and caring to change a person’s life.– Jackie Chan

Sometimes our lives take unexpected turns, turns that we are not prepared for. In such times even a tiny bit of happiness gives us the strength to brave the storm. Kindness is the best form of medicine.

For Emma Mertens, a 7-year-old girl from Wisconsin who is battling DIPG, that happiness came in the form of 40 police officers and dogs.

In January this year, Emma was diagnosed with DIPG. Like a child unaware of what is happening to her, Emma was upset. There was something that would cheer Emma up and that was dogs. Her love for dogs was unparalleled. A friend of the family thought sending her a letter from her dog would cheer Emma up. She asked people through various social media platforms to send her photos and letters from their dogs and people from different corners of the world did their bit to make her happy.

But the K-9 officers from 40 police departments went a step ahead to make Emma smile. Surprised on seeing so many dogs and people – all just there for her, with some having driven for about three hours, Emma was overjoyed. These small acts of kindness helped Emma and her family get through the painful phase in their lives.

While the treatment of DIPG and our efforts to find a cure for it are important, what is also important is to lift a child’s spirits and make them smile. A simple act of kindness can go a long way in making the journey of battling DIPG a little easier for the children and their families.

This is just one story, Emma is just one of the faces of DIPG. There are many children out there who need a little bit of support and help. At Marc Jr Foundation, we have adopted a multi-fold approach to battle DIPG and one day, triumph over it. Are you with us?

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Sources (1,2,3)

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This New Drug Could Become The First Ever Treatment Designed To Target DIPG

New Drug For DIPG

A shocking fact – for about two decades now no new drugs have been licensed to treat brain cancer in adults and children! But this new drug could change things and become the first drug designed to target DIPG.

The scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London have been working in a new drug that can kill cancer cells. Trials in mice have been successful and clinical trials in children are expected to begin in 2021.

Five years ago in 2014, the team of scientists at ICR discovered that in about 75% of DIPG tumors, the mutation of ACVR1 genes is present. This is what made them focused to research a drug that could target this gene and so, hopefully, be curative for DIPG. Teaming up with the Structural Genomics Consortium in Oxford, they created a new series of molecules to target ACVR1.

Thereafter, they tested 11 prototypes of the new drugs in the cancer cells that were grown in the laboratory and positive results were seen in two of the 11 prototypes. These prototypes not only killed the cancer cells but showed very little effect on the healthy cells in the brain. When tested on mice, it was shown to increase the survival rate by 25%. A new company M4K Pharma has taken this on as their first project to develop affordable drugs for diseases affecting children.

New Drug For DIPG

 

Understanding the biology of DIPG tumors has helped researchers develop new and effective drugs to make life better for those battling DIPG. More awareness about DIPG and its research can make it a thing of the past and give the gift of life to hundreds of children.

Marc Jr Foundation appeals you to join hands with us to bid adieu to DIPG and not to our children.

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Source

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What Causes DIPG? Let’s Try To Get Some Answers

DIPG, DIPG Awareness, Treatment, Cure, Brain Tumor, Pediatric Cancer, Marc Jr Foundation

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.

Integrated Molecular Meta-Analysis of 1,000 Pediatric High-Grade and Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma - graphical abstract.jpg
By Alan MacKay et al. (2017) – Integrated Molecular Meta-Analysis of 1,000 Pediatric High-Grade and Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (Mackay, Alan et al.Cancer Cell. 2017 Oct 9;32(4):520-537.e5, doi:10.1016/j.ccell.2017.08.017, CC BY 4.0)

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.

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Sources: 1, 2, 3

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The Symptoms of DIPG You Should Be Aware Of

Young Sad Child

Awareness about the not-much-talked-about Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) can help in the diagnosis and pain-relieving treatment of the disease. These glial tumors, that are found at the base of the brain are most common in children. A related condition called “hydrocephalus” wherein fluid builds-up in the brain also causes pressure in the brain.

These are the major symptoms of DIPG:

Problems with eye movement, vision, and control:
 
DIPG occurs in the “pons” of the brainstem, causing pressure on the cranial nerves that originate from that part of our brain. These nerves control the facial muscles that are used to move the eyes. Other symptoms of DIPG related to the eyes are double vision, drooping of the eyelids and inability to completely shut the eyes.

Difficulty in swallowing and chewing:

The cranial nerves that originate from the pons, also control the facial muscles which are used to chew and swallow food. Difficulty in performing these two functions are one of the first red flags.

Problems in balance:

The balance system of the human body works when the inner ear, brain, muscles, joints and the eyes function unimpaired together. DIPG hampers their functioning.

Headaches:
 
It causes headaches, especially in the morning. As the tumor enlarges, it causes pressure and pain in the brain.

Nausea and vomiting:

Both these symptoms are a result of the increased pressure inside the brain.

Other symptoms like fatigue, anxiety, deafness, difficulty in urinating, problems in walking, weakness in the limbs, clumsiness, difficulty in sleeping are also present. Symptoms can get intense a month before diagnosis but can also appear up to six months before. As DIPG is a rapidly-growing tumor the symptoms can get worse quickly. It is advisable to seek medical help as soon as possible.

The Marc Junior Foundation has been dedicated to spreading awareness about DIPG, funding research for its cure and encouraging the participation of the people in helping those facing DIPG. Join our movement. You can also donate to the cause.

Sources:

  1. https://dipg.org/dipg-facts/symptoms-of-dipg/
  2. https://dipgregistry.org/medical-professionals/dipg-symptom-management-and-end-of-life-care/
  3. http://weillcornellbrainandspine.org/condition/diffuse-intrinsic-pontine-glioma-dipg/symptoms-dipg
  4. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/articles-and-answers/ask-the-expert/brain-tumors-in-children-8-warning-signs-you-should-know
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5 Things About DIPG That Will Help Us Understand It

Marc Jr Foundation, Marc Junior Foundation

Famous philosopher Voltaire said, “God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.” It is difficult to have a positive outlook when your child is facing a rare tumor-like DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma) but it is necessary. It is the quality of life that matters the most, no matter how long it is. When facing DIPG, one of the greatest challenges we face is the lack of knowledge about it. These seven things will help us understand it better.

1. DIPG affects children majorly, it is uncommon in adults.

About 300-350 cases of DIPG are diagnosed every year in the United States, out of which most are in children aged below ten. Both boys and girls are equally affected. (source)

2. The disease occurs in a delicate area of the brainstem that controls critical body functions.

DIPG occurs in the “pons” of the brainstem of a person. The pons is a structure located in the upper part of the brainstem that controls functions like breathing, senses like hearing and taste, body balance, communication between different sections of the brain etc.

3. The symptoms of DIPG can appear suddenly.

Typical MRI appearance of diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) | Katherine E. Warren (2012) [CC BY 3.0]
A pontine glioma, DIPG grows rapidly. Some of the early symptoms include sudden hearing problems, nausea, headache, vomiting, problems with movements of the eyes and eyelids, weakness in the face and the limbs, loss of balance, problems in chewing and swallowing food among others.

4. A cure has not been found for DIPG yet.

 

Treatments like radiotherapy help with the symptoms of DIPG by shrinking the tumor but they do not cure it. Despite ongoing research, no definite cure has been found. Research conducted by Dr. Mark Souweidane of St. Baldrick has come close to finding a cure through injecting a high concentration of cancer-fighting drug directly into the tumor. (reference)

5. Awareness, acceptance and comforting can go a long way in helping to deal with DIPG.

As the awareness of this rare tumor is scarce, it is difficult for families facing DIPG to understand and face the disease. Accepting that your child is facing DIPG will help you comfort them and make it a little easier. Simple comforting techniques like giving them their favorite soft toys, cuddling with them under a blanket like Quility, or watching a superhero movie with them will help.

Quility Premium Kids Weighted Blanket & Removable Cover
Quility Premium Kids Weighted Blanket & Removable Cover

The Marc Junior Foundation has been helping families dealing with DIPG by offering educational and financial assistance, along with making efforts to fund research to find a cure. Get in touch with us for more information, donate today to make a difference.

You can also follow us on Facebook.

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Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG)

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What is a Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG)?

DIPG stands for Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. It is commonly referred to as diffuse pontine glioma, diffusely infiltrative brainstem glioma, and brainstem glioma. The Marc Jr Foundation, and most of the organizations that we collaborate with use the name diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG).

In simple words, DIPG is a rare brain tumor that occurs in the Pons, the most delicate area of the human brain. The brain and the spinal cord are connected with a brainstem. The three distinct parts of the brainstem are Mid brain, Pons and Medulla oblongata. DIPG is a cancer of the Pons which serves as the message system between several areas of the brain and controls many critical functions such as breathing and blood pressure.

DIPG - Structures of the brainstem
Structures of the brainstem. Credit: Wikipedia.

DIPG is considered one of the most dreaded forms of childhood cancer mainly because of the location of the brain that it affects and due to the way it infiltrates the normal brain tissue. It affects approximately 500 children each year in the United States with a peak incidence in children around 3 to 9 years of age. It affects girls and boys equally and spans across all social, racial, and religious groups.

There is no known cause of the DIPG and it is a hard pill to swallow. This cancer hasn’t received enough research funding to find a cure and it comes with a zero survival rate that has not improved over the years because of the lack of new research funding. The Marc Jr Foundation is committed to funding this work.

If you would like to join the fight for a cure to defeat DIPG and help families dealing with it, please Donate for a cure today!

Read more about Marc Jr Foundation at marcjr.org and follow our Facebook page.