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Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Gliomas (DIPG)

What is Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Gliomas (DIPG)?

Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Gliomas (DIPG) is a severe type of tumor in children that starts in the brain stem. The stem controls breathing, heart rate and the nerves and muscles that help us see, hear, walk, talk and eat.

These tumors are called gliomas because they grow from glial cells, a type of supportive cell in the brain.

DIPG falls into the Glioma staging system, so they can be classified according to the four stages below:

  • Low Grade: Grade I or II means that the tumor cells are the closest to normal
  • High Grade: Grade III or IV means that these are the most aggressive tumors.

What are the symptoms of Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Gliomas (DIPG)?

Common symptoms related to DIPG include:

  • Problems with balance and walking
  • Problems with chewing and swallowing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Eye issues, including
    • Double vision
    • Drooping eyelids
    • Uncontrolled eye movements
    • Blurred vision

What causes Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Gliomas (DIPG)?

Recent research has suggested that DIPG tumor formation may be linked to brain development. These studies suggest that the disease process may be influenced by particular cells that are present in the highest concentrations while the brain is developing.

The theory that DIPG is linked to brain development is also supported by the fact that DIPG most often occurs during middle childhood (ages 5-10), a period in which the brain develops significantly. It would also explain why adults do not get DIPG tumors.

How is Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Gliomas (DIPG) diagnosed?

DIPG is most commonly diagnosed from imaging studies, but full tests include:

  • Computerized tomography scan (CT or CAT scan)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS)
  • Biopsy

What are the treatments for Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Gliomas (DIPG)?

There is currently no cure for DIPG, but the following re treatment options:

  • Radiation therapy is currently he primary therapy for newly diagnosed DIPG in children older than 3. It uses high-energy X-rays from a specialized machine or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors (stop them from growing).
  • Chemotherapy long with radiation therapy and other biologic agents may also be an option
  • A biopsy may be done to decide the tumor’s type and grade. If the biopsy finds cancer cells and the patient is still in surgery, the surgeon may take out as much tumor as can be removed safely.

Where can I find out more about Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Gliomas (DIPG)?

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