Ketogenic diet treatment in diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma in children: Retrospective analysis of feasibility, safety, and survival data

Cancer Rep (Hoboken). 2021 Oct;4(5):e1383. doi: 10.1002/cnr2.1383. Epub 2021 May 3.


Background: Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) is one of the most devastating diseases among children with cancer, thus novel strategies are urgently needed.

Aims: We retrospectively evaluated DIPG patients exposed to the carbohydrate restricted ketogenic diet (KD) with regard of feasibility, safety, and overall survival (OS).

Methods and results: Searches of MEDLINE and Embase identified five hits meeting the search criteria (diagnosis of DIPG and exposure to KD). One additional case was identified by contact with experts. Individual patient data were extracted from publications or obtained from investigators. The inclusion criteria for analysis of the data were defined as DIPG patients who were exposed to the KD for ≥3 months. Feasibility, as described in the literature, was the number of patients able to follow the KD for 3 months out of all DIPG patients identified. OS was estimated by the Kaplan-Meier method. Five DIPG patients (males, n = 3; median age 4.4 years; range, 2.5-15 years) meeting the inclusion criteria were identified. Analysis of the available data suggested that the KD is generally relatively well tolerated. Only mild gastro-intestinal complaints, one borderline hypoglycemia (2.4 mmol/L) and one hyperketosis (max 7.2 mmol/L) were observed. Five out of six DIPG patients identified adhered for ≥3 months (median KD duration, 6.5 months; range, 0.25-2 years) to the diet. The median OS was 18.7 months.

Conclusion: Our study provides evidence that it may be feasible for pediatric DIPG patients to adhere for at least 3 months to KD. In particular cases, diet modifications were done. The clinical outcome and OS appear not to be impacted in a negative way. KD might be proposed as adjuvant therapy when large prospective studies have shown feasibility and safety. Future studies might ideally assess the impact of KD on clinical outcome, quality of life, and efficacy.

Keywords: CNS tumors; brain; brainstem; gliomas; neuro-oncology; nutrition; pediatric hematology/oncology; tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain Stem Neoplasms / diet therapy
  • Brain Stem Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Brain Stem Neoplasms / pathology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet, Ketogenic / methods*
  • Diet, Ketogenic / mortality
  • Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma / diet therapy
  • Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma / mortality*
  • Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma / pathology
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prognosis
  • Quality of Life*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Rate