What Is DIPG?

DIPG stands for Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Giloma. DIPG occurs when a tumor grows in the middle of the bottom part of the brain, an area that connects to the spinal cord.

DIPG means that an area of the brain has formed an abnormal growth of tissue in the pons (or the middle part) of the brain stem. The brain stem is the bottom part of the brain. The brain stem connects back portion of the brain the vertebrates and spinal cord.

For an easier explanation, let’s break things down:

Diffuse: This means that the tumor is not well contained. The abnormal growth of tissue grows into other brain tissues. This causes cancerous cells to mix with healthy cells. For this reason, it is impossible to surgically remove DIPG tumors without damaging healthy tissue.

Intrinsic: Intrinsic growths are tumors that are contained wholly within one organ. DIPG growth occurs solely in the brain.

Pontine: Pontine describes the area where the tumor is located. If a tumor is located in the part of the brain called the pons, it is a pontine tumor. The pons is the area where the spinal cord meets the brain. The pons area is responsible for managing important body functions: breathing, sleeping, bladder control, and balance. The pressure from a growing tumor can make someone with DIPG lose control of these vital body functions.

Giloma: Giloma is a general term for tumors that originate in the glial cells. Gilial cells are found throughout the brain and make up the matter that surrounds and supports neurons. Neurons are specialized cells that transmit nerve impulses. Gilomas can form in several different areas of the brain.

Who does DIPG affect?

DIPG primarily affects children. Most diagnoses occur between children ages 5 through 7. DIPG makes up 10 – 15% of all brain tumors in children. There are about 100 – 150 new diagnoses each year in the United States and about 300 new diagnoses per year in all of North American and Europe combined.

Unlike many other pediatric cancers, there has been little progress to improve treatments and cure rates for DIPG. Fewer than 10% of children diagnoses with DIPG survive for two years after diagnosis.

Standard treatment for DIPG is conventional focal radiotherapy. Studies show that median survival is less than one year past diagnosis. Although 75 – 85% of patients show some symptom improvements after radiation therapy, DIPG growths commonly begin to show again. Clinical trials have reported the median time between radiation therapy treatment and progression is five to eight months. The time from progression to death is very short; between one and five months.

For more information about DIPG, visit the DIPG Registry.

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