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Am Soc Clin Oncol Educ Book. 2012:629-33. doi: 10.14694/EdBook_AM.2012.32.629.

Is biopsy safe in children with newly diagnosed diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma?

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From the Necker Enfants Malades Hospital, Université Paris Descartes, Sorbonne Paris Cité, France; Gustave Roussy Cancer Institute, Universite Paris Sud, Villejuif, France.


Diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas (DIPGs), with a median survival of 9 months, represent the biggest therapeutic challenge in pediatric neuro-oncology. Despite many clinical trials, no major improvements in treatment have been made over the past 30 years. In most cases, biopsy is not needed for diagnosis because DIPG diagnosis is based on a typical clinical picture with radiologic evidence on magnetic resonance imaging. Therefore, little data on newly diagnosed DIPG have been published and are confounded by including autopsy (i.e., postradiation therapy) cases. In most cancers, advancing to cure has been linked to the discovery of relevant biomarkers, only found by access to tissue. Therefore, to further understand the biology of DIPG, fresh tissue samples must be obtained at diagnosis. However, most neurosurgical teams are reluctant to perform biopsy in pediatric patients, citing potential risks and lack of direct benefit. Yet, in reviewing 90 patients with and the published data on brainstem biopsy, these procedures have a diagnostic yield and morbidity and mortality rates similar to those reported for other brain locations. In addition, the quality and quantity of the material obtained confirm the diagnosis and inform an extended molecular screen, including biomarker study-information important to designing next-generation trials with targeted agents. Stereotactic biopsies can be considered a safe procedure in well-trained neurosurgical teams and could be incorporated in well-defined protocols for patients with DIPG.

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