What is DIPG?
What is DIPG? Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) is a brain tumor found in a part of the brain stem called the pons. The pons controls essential bodily functions such as heartbeat, breathing, swallowing, eye movement, eyesight, and balance. DIPG affects children almost exclusively. Approximately 200-400 children in the United States (10-20 in Israel) are diagnosed with DIPG each year. These children are typically between the ages of 4 and 11. DIPG accounts for roughly 10-15% of all brain tumors in children.
DIPG is an aggressive tumor that interferes with all bodily functions, depriving a child of the ability to move, to communicate, and even to eat and drink.
As a DIPG tumor begins to grow, it puts pressure on the nerves that control the essential bodily functions regulated by the pons. Children with DIPG commonly experience double vision, reduced eye movement, facial weakness or asymmetry, and arm and leg weakness. They also have problems with walking, coordination, speech, chewing, and swallowing. As the tumor progresses, it also interferes with breathing and heartbeat, which ultimately results in the child’s death.
What is the prognosis for a child diagnosed with DIPG?
Medical advances in the past 40 years have greatly improved the survival rates for children diagnosed with most types of cancer. For some cancers, the medical advances have been extraordinary. For example, the survival rate for children with acute lymphocytic leukemia has increased from less than 10 percent in the 1960s to nearly 90 percent today. Overall, the survival rate for children with cancer is around 83 percent.
But these medical advances have done nothing for children with DIPG. Brain tumors remain the most common cause of cancer-related death in children, and DIPG is the leading cause of death from pediatric brain tumors. A child diagnosed with DIPG today faces the same prognosis as a child diagnosed 40 years ago. There is still no effective treatment and no chance of survival. Only 10% of children with DIPG survive for 2 years following their diagnosis, and less than 1% survive for 5 years. The median survival time is 9 months from diagnosis.
5-Year Survival Rates