What is DIPG?

Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG, is an aggressive brain tumor that begins in the brainstem in an area called the pons. The pons is responsible for vital life functions including balance, breathing, bladder control, heart rate, and blood pressure. Nerves that control vision, hearing, speech, swallowing, and movement also pass through this region of the brain.

Illustration showing the cerebellum, pons and medulla structures of the brain within a child's head
DIPG is located in the pons area of the brain, usually involves and expands most of pons, and does not have well-defined borders.

Diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas account for 10 percent of all childhood central nervous system tumors. Approximately 300 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with DIPG each year. While DIPGs are usually diagnosed when children are between the ages of 5 and 9, they can occur at any age in childhood. These tumors occur in boys and girls equally and do not generally appear in adults.

DIPG arises from glial cells, which make up the supportive tissue of the brain. It is a diffuse tumor, meaning that the tumor is not well-contained. The tumor extends finger-like projections into healthy tissue. Because of the location and infiltrative nature of the tumor, surgery cannot be performed to safely remove DIPG tumors.

Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma is almost invariably fatal with a mean OS of 8–14 months from the time of diagnosis.