DIPG is an aggressive and a hard to treat tumor that is present in the brain stem. As it has no definite boundaries, treating it is very difficult as there is a risk of damage to the surrounding brain cells. Radiation therapy has often been used as a form of treatment for DIPG as it temporarily shrinks the tumor, thereby reducing the pain. A more advanced form of treatment, known as Convection-Enhanced Delivery (CED) is shown to be more effective.
CED is when chemotherapy drugs are directly delivered to the tumor. It is a technique that has been gaining interest especially for tumors like DIPG that are in a hard to reach location and difficult to treat. CED can pass the blood-brain barrier (BBB) which the drugs that are ingested orally or taken intravenously cannot. The blood-brain barrier is the membrane that controls what drugs can pass from the brain to the brain.
Four catheters are implanted into the brain through surgery and through these catheters the drugs are released into the brain. One of the major benefits of CED is the decrease in the after-effects of radiotherapy such as nausea.
However, compared to radiotherapy, CED is expensive and often requires funding. Also, it is not widely available because of the problems in monitoring drug distribution but several clinical trials are underway for the same. For treatments like CED to gain momentum, more research needs to be carried out and there has to be an increased understanding of DIPG. When backed by sufficient resources, the clinical trials and the research can get impetus and be available as a treatment option for all soon.
Marc Jr Foundation is committed to finding a cure for DIPG. With your support, we can make it happen.
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.