"A new era for DIPG has just begun."
So starts the conclusion of this expert review article written last year by two prominent DIPG researchers from the Netherlands- Marc Jansen and Gertjan Kaspers. It will behoove one interested in DIPG research to be aware of those names. They are ones that keep coming up in DIPG issues- publications and European DIPG worshops.
These experts highlight that there has been a rapid increase in biological understanding of DIPGs. This has only been able to occur because of the recent availability of DIPG tumor tissue which from the French re-introduction of biopsies and the North American/Dutch focus on autopsy donation. This DIPG tissue is critical to the further understanding of DIPG although biopsies and post-mortem tissue each have advantages and disadvantages.
The biopsy issues has been very controversial. The French group has now preformed over 100 stereotactic biopsies with 0% mortality and a 4% transient morbidity. An advantage of pre-treated biopsy specimens is that there is a significant risk treatment will change the original molecular characteristics. The tumor that the children start with very likely is not the tumor molecularly that they die with.
Post mortem tissue carries a high risk of treatment-related genetic changes. Still, there are advantages. There is a much greater tissue volume available for study. This also allows study on tumor hetergeneity (how varied the tumor is) as well as "treatment-resistent subclones". In addition, it has been from these tumor donations that cell lines and animal models have been developed (greatly adding to research potential).
Even with this "avalanache of gene profiling studies" in DIPG, this will probably not provide the entire answer for cure. There is at least one other prong to the problem. The authors pose some thoughtful questions for consideration:
- Why are all chemotherapy regimens ineffective in DIPG while some show activity in supratentorally located gliomas, such as temozolomide?
- Why does imatinib, an inhibitor of the DIPG key target PDGFRA, not improve survival ?
- Could poor drug distribution be at least partly the answer to these questions?
It is a new era. There are researchers focused on understanding this tumor. There has been a virtual explosion of clinical trials and publications. There is excitement.
We are, though, at the beginning. We have just gotten some of the tools to fight, --to understand , --to research, --to make a difference. It is unlikely that the cure is around the next bend but research is finally moving for children with DIPG. There is reason to hope that someday there might be a cure.
Note- DIPG research at the VU University Medical Center is financially supported by Stichting Semmy (Weesp, The Netherlands).
A new era for diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma: hope for a cure?
Gertjan J Kaspers and Marc Jansen
Pediatric Oncology and Hematology, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands Expert Rev. Anticancer Ther. 12(9), 1109–1112 (2012)
Full Text: http://www.brainlife.org/reprint/2012/Kaspers_GJ120900.pdf