Diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas (DIPG) are highly aggressive and difficult to treat tumors found at the base of the brain. They are glial tumors, meaning that they arise in the brain’s glial or supportive tissue. These tumors are found in an area of the brainstem (the lowest, stem-like part of the brain) called the pons, which controls many of the body’s most vital functions such as breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate.
Children and adolescents with DIPG are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through our Glioma Program. Continue reading to learn more about DIPG or visit the Glioma Program homepage to learn about our expertise and treatment options for this condition.
The symptoms of DIPG usually develop very rapidly prior to diagnosis, reflecting the fast growth of these tumors. Most patients start experiencing symptoms less than three months—and often less than three weeks—before diagnosis. The most common symptoms include:
DIPG are most commonly diagnosed from diagnostic imaging studies, including:
The location of these tumors and their tendency to invade into normal tissue make biopsies complicated, although a biopsy may be performed as part of a clinical trial in order to identify the optimal therapy and confirm the diagnosis. After all tests are completed, doctors will be able to outline the best treatment options.
The treatment for diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma may include:
Multiple clinical trials have demonstrated that routine chemotherapy does not increase survival rates for this condition. In addition, surgery is not an option because it can cause severe neurological damage and affect the body’s most vital functions.
The Brain Tumor Center's Peter Manley, MD discusses the side effects of cancer treatment, emphasizing the importance of treating the patient, not just the condition.