Grieving Blogger Highlights Childhood Cancer DIPG: What Treatments Provide Future Hope?

Stevie Stock was diagnosed in mid-April with DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma), one of the most common cancers in young children.
By on 06/04/2020 11:30 AM

Source: MedicineNet Health News

It took less than two months. In that time, influencer and blogger Ashley Stock and her family spent their last moments with 3-year-old daughter Stevie before she died of brain cancer.

Stock described her daughter’s final weeks in touching Instagram posts. How brave her daughter could be, how wise. How she responded to every “I love you” with “I love you more.”

Stevie was diagnosed in mid-April with DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma), one of the most common cancers in young children. It is also one of the most challenging to remove as it is found in the middle of the brainstem, according to Johns Hopkins.

The brainstem controls many vital functions, like breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure, said MedicineNet author .

DIPG is the most common type of brainstem tumor found in children, according to an article edited by , who sits on the MedicineNet editorial board.

About 300 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with DIPG each year Dr. Stöppler said, with the cause of the disease unknown, and its prognosis very poor.

Children with DIPG have a poor chance of survival now, but two recent treatments have emerged that offer hope of better future outcomes.

BXQ-350

The cancer drug BXQ-350 was granted an Orphan Drug Designation by the FDA in May, according to manufacturer Bexion Pharmaceuticals.

The drug targets tumor vessels and cells, accumulating in them and binding to phospholipids in the tumor cell membranes, explains the National Cancer Institute’s drug dictionary. Once inside the tumor, the drug produces various chemical changes that inhibit the growth of tumor cells.

BXQ-350 has undergone human trials since 2017 and has been shown to kill tumorous cancer cells both in human subjects and lab studies, according to Bexion. It also has a “very good safety profile” according to Olivier Rixe, MD, PhD, at UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center, who oversaw the first trials in humans and was also involved in developing the drug.

Cancer drugs require rigorous testing and billions of dollars in investments, following a process that often takes a decade or longer before they are approved.

Bexion completed a pediatric trial of BXQ-350 in 2019.

Immunotherapy for DIPG

Also in May, Scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys reported progress on a combined treatment for DIPG. Using immunotherapy along with TNF (tumor necrosis factor) helped expose brain cancer cells in mice to the immune system, the research institute said.

While DIPG has a nearly 100% fatality rate, approximately half of the mice exposed to this combined treatment survived the cancer.

“Our findings suggest that some cancers may not respond to immunotherapy because the tumors don’t have sufficient MHC-I levels to trigger an effective immune response,” said Robert Wechsler-Reya, Ph.D., senior author of the paper published in Nature Neuroscience and director of the Tumor Initiation and Maintenance Program at Sanford Burnham Prebys. “Our hope is that in the near term, combining immunotherapy with TNF will increase the effectiveness of immunotherapy for children who are battling brain cancer.”

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