Progress in diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma: advocating for stereotactic biopsy in the standard of care

Neurosurg Focus. 2020 Jan 1;48(1):E4. doi: 10.3171/2019.9.FOCUS19745.


Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) is a universally fatal pediatric brainstem tumor affecting approximately 300 children in the US annually. Median survival is less than 1 year, and radiation therapy has been the mainstay of treatment for decades. Recent advances in the biological understanding of the disease have identified the H3K27M mutation in nearly 80% of DIPGs, leading to the 2016 WHO classification of diffuse midline glioma H3K27M-mutant, a grade IV brainstem tumor. Developments in epigenetic targeting of transcriptional tendencies have yielded potential molecular targets for clinical trials. Chimeric antigen receptor T cell therapy has also shown preclinical promise. Recent clinical studies, including prospective trials, have demonstrated the safety and feasibility of pediatric brainstem biopsy in the setting of DIPG and other brainstem tumors. Given developments in the ability to analyze DIPG tumor tissue to deepen biological understanding of this disease and develop new therapies for treatment, together with the increased safety of stereotactic brainstem biopsy, the authors present a case for offering biopsy to all children with suspected DIPG. They also present their standard operative techniques for image-guided, frameless stereotactic biopsy.

Keywords: CAR = chimeric antigen receptor; DIPG = diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma; DMG = diffuse midline glioma; EGFR = epidermal growth factor receptor; biopsy; brainstem cancer; diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma; diffuse midline glioma; pediatric cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Astrocytoma* / pathology
  • Astrocytoma* / surgery
  • Biopsy* / methods
  • Brain Stem Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Brain Stem Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Epigenomics
  • Glioma / genetics
  • Humans
  • Image-Guided Biopsy / methods
  • Prospective Studies
  • Standard of Care*