DIPG/DIPT Discussion

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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Voices on Pediatric DIPG Biopsy- Nicholas Foreman MD ChB

ASCO 2012 Educational Session Presentation

"If the the definition of insanity is doing the same useless thing with the same outcome, this is it."
....Dr Nick Foreman speaking on the negative results on dozens of trials in DIPGs with no biologic knowledge of the tumor

Dr Nick Foreman,  director of the pediatric neuro-oncology program at Denver Children's, presented the second lecture at the 2012 ASCO educational meeting  "Pontine Gliomas in Children:To Biopsy or Not to Biopsy".    Dr Foreman along with his colleague, neurosurgeon Dr Michael Handler, actively and aggressively challenged medicine's standard practice of not preforming biopsies in 10% of children with brain tumors when that tumor (DIPG) has been almost always fatal and no trial has shown any benefit for the tumor.  They argued that it was really unethical to continue to subject these patients to phase 1 trials to obtain toxicity and dosage data when one could not show any benefit from the dozens of trials previously.   These two physicians worked to have the American Society of Neurosurgery reverse the standard practice of not preforming biopsies for DIPG children.   

This 16 1/2 minute presentation is a personal account of the resistance encountered when developing DIPG research that stemmed from work done in 2004 in biopsies of pediatric supratentorial GBMs.  The 2004 work lead to a 2007 IRB proposal in which 10 children with DIPGs were to be biopsied (with parental consent) without treatment based on those biopsies.  This was pretty much exactly what France had already done and published results with no mortality and transient morbidity.  However, the local IRB could not make a decision resulting in an FDA hearing on the topic.  The results of the FDA panel was mixed so the initial proposal of 10 children being biopsied was rejected in favor of the current upfront biopsy trial that is underway.

Now that we have the biopsy trial open in the US  and 2011 Consensus Conference on Pediatric Neurosurgery specifically stated a standard regarding biopsy of typical pediatric DIPGs within clinical trials, we may now be past much of the controversy of the past decade.   Still, I think it is important to know the traumatic, tragic history of how this stagnated DIPG research.  

Dr. Foreman ends pondering a question on whether we "missed the boat" for DIPG children by failing to openly recognize that in experienced hands DIPG biopsy is not more dangerous than in other areas of the brain.    

If the majority understood that the 1993 paper recommending "routine biopsies be relegated to history" was referring to MRI's accuracy of diagnosis and not on DIPGs surgical risk/safety, could we have moved faster in the current age of cancer molecular biology to have known about such abnormalities as the histone mutation much earlier.  Perhaps we could have been further along on a cure.

Nicholas Foreman, Pediatric Neuro-Oncologist

Interpretation of magnetic resonance images in diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma: a survey of pediatric neurosurgeons

Slides of Dr Foreman's presentation in 2009 to the FDA

Magnetic resonance scans should replace biopsies for the diagnosis of diffuse brainstem gliomas:  a report from the Children's Cancer Group