Treatment of diffuse intrinsic brainstem gliomas: failed approaches and future strategies

A review

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Diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas constitute ~ 60–75% of tumors found within the pediatric brainstem. These malignant lesions present with rapidly progressive symptoms such as cranial nerve, long tract, or cerebellar dysfunctions. Magnetic resonance imaging is usually sufficient to establish the diagnosis and obviates the need for surgical biopsy in most cases. The prognosis of the disease is dismal, and the median survival is < 12 months. Resection is not a viable option. Standard therapy involves radiotherapy, which produces transient neurological improvement with a progression-free survival benefit, but provides no improvement in overall survival. Clinical trials have been conducted to assess the efficacy of chemotherapeutic and biological agents in the treatment of diffuse pontine gliomas. In this review, the authors discuss recent studies in which systemic therapy was administered prior to, concomitantly with, or after radiotherapy. For future perspective, the discussion includes a rationale for stereotactic biopsies as well as possible therapeutic options of local chemotherapy in these lesions.

Abbreviations used in this paper: BBB = blood-brain barrier; BCNU = carmustine; CED = convection-enhanced delivery; FDG-PET = [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose–PET.
Article Information

Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to: George I. Jallo, M.D., Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Harvey 811, 600 North Wolfe Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21287. email: gjallo1@jhmi.edu.
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