What is DIPG?
DIPG stands for diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma. It is a type of high-grade glioma, a brain tumor that comes from cells called glia that surround, protect, and otherwise support the nerve cells in the brain.
DIPG is always found in the brainstem. This part of the brain controls many basic functions like breathing and swallowing, as well as muscles that help with speech and eye movements.
It is most common in elementary school-aged children, but it can affect children of any age.
Learn more about childhood cancer >
About 250 kids in the U.S. are diagnosed with DIPG each year.
In the world of childhood cancer research, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) are two superheroes, teaming up to use their complementary strengths to save lives.
Dr. Mary Lou Schmidt decorates pumpkins with her patient, Isaac, and his mom. Isaac is on a Children’s Oncology Group clinical trial that’s part of a unique tri-institutional clinical trial program in Chicago that’s supported by St. Baldrick’s.
We sat down virtually with St. Baldrick’s researcher, Stephan A. Grupp, MD, PhD, for a Q&A on immunotherapy. Dr. Grupp, located at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, is a key member of the Stand Up to Cancer – St. Baldrick’s Pediatric Dream Team. He treated the first child with CAR T cell therapy, which was recently approved by the FDA for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Check out our Twitter chat with Dr. Grupp and see what he thinks the future is for immunotherapy and childhood cancers.
St. Baldrick’s Scholar Dr. David Barrett gives us an inside look at immunotherapy, and we meet the first pediatric patient to ever receive this new cancer treatment.
Emily Whitehead, the first pediatric patient to be treated with immunotherapy, 18 months post-treatment and starting third grade.
For most of us, our immune systems fight off disease every day. A healthy immune system can even fight off life-threatening diseases like cancer. And when we do get sick, a healthy immune system attacks sickness and help us get back to feeling like ourselves again.
It is a different story for kids with cancer. A child with cancer has a suppressed immune system. It’s as if a blindfold has been pulled down, and the body is unable to target invasive cells. You might say the immune system is asleep.
What if doctors could wake up a sleeping immune system?
Where is our very first St. Baldrick’s Fellow now? Still in the lab, that’s where! Meet Dr. Sharon Singh, the physician-scientist who was given the inaugural St. Baldrick’s Fellow Award in 2005. What does that monetary vote of confidence do for a new researcher and for the childhood cancer research field? It’s been 12 years and the results are in – read on to find out.
Dr. Sharon Singh currently works as a clinician, researcher and assistant professor with the Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine.
At the heart of it, Dr. Sharon Singh is a problem solver and for the last decade, the pediatric hematologist-oncologist has been working on the problem of childhood cancer. But she knows that the big problem of kids’ cancer can’t be solved only at the bedside of a patient – problem solvers like her need to be in the lab too.
And that is exactly what Dr. Singh is doing, thanks to a St. Baldrick’s grant given more than 10 years ago.
When Honored Kid Hazel H. relapsed, there was no clear path forward. There was no tried-and-true roadmap to survival. There was no cure. But now, spunky, precocious little Hazel is cancer free for the second time. How? Three words that bring kids with cancer and their families hope – childhood cancer research.
Diagnosed with neuroblastoma in 2013, Hazel relapsed after two and a half years cancer free. Now, in a turn of events rare for kids with relapsed neuroblastoma, she’s cancer free once again.
It was the summer of 2016 when Hazel and her family went on vacation to Yosemite National Park. For once, they were all together – Lauren and Aaron, plus the five kids: Micah, Elizabeth, Hazel, Jonah and Zoe. It felt normal. Like a regular family vacation.
For some families that might sound typical, like something every family does every summer. But to this family – which had spent the past few years in and out of hospitals, making life-or-death decisions – typical was wonderful. It was a strange, unfamiliar kind of bliss.
St. Baldrick’s supporters, this is a day to celebrate! You have helped make history. Today, the FDA approved the first gene therapy available in the United States. Called Kymriah, it’s an entirely new way of treating cancer and it’s saving lives.
This “living drug” is for patients with a type of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a cancer of the blood and bone marrow and the most common form of childhood cancer. Scientists genetically modify a patient’s own immune cells in the lab, then infuse these new cells back into the patient’s body. These modified cells – called CAR T cells or chimeric antigen receptor T cells – then prompt the child’s own immune system to attack and kill leukemia cells.
For kids with cancer, pain is a part of life. But what happens to that pain when you teach pediatric patients martial arts and meditation? With some help from an MRI machine, a group of karate kids, and a St. Baldrick’s Supportive Care Research grant, researcher Dr. Hilary Marusak is going to find out.
Dr. Hilary Marusak, a postdoctoral research fellow at Wayne State University, visits with a group of young martial artists during a session of the Kids Kicking Cancer program.
Neuroscientist Dr. Hilary Marusak may be new to the world of childhood cancer, but she’s no stranger to what kids with cancer and their families experience every day – stress. Working for the past several years in high-crime parts of Detroit, Michigan, she saw how stresses, like violence and abuse, could harm a child for life.
“The brain, when it’s developing, is really sensitive to these types of adverse experiences,” she explained. “So, that’s why I was really interested in understanding how that affects the brain and how we can intervene and get the brain onto a healthier trajectory for kids who are exposed to those types of experiences.”
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is tough for doctors to treat. Because of that, the intense treatment needed to beat AML can be especially tough on the kids who have it. St. Baldrick’s researcher Dr. Anders Kolb wants to change that with targeted therapy. To do this, he’s getting a little help from his friends – including St. Baldrick’s.
Dr. Anders Kolb is one of St. Baldrick’s newest grantees.
Many kids in treatment for AML are getting hammered by strong treatments, like intense chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants. These therapies can save their lives, but often come with a steep cost as they grow up.
“There’s only so much we can do with the tools in our toolbox,” said Dr. Anders Kolb, who works at the Alfred I. Dupont Hospital for Children in Delaware. “We have five different hammers and they’re all really big hammers. We don’t have anything that is more subtle and more targeted.”
Not yet, at least.
What do researchers Dr. Alex Huang and Dr. Carl Allen have in common? Passion, curiosity, drive, brilliant ideas, a desire to help kids — the list goes on! And now there’s something else. They are both recipients of the first St. Baldrick’s Innovation Award. What do they want to do with this unique grant? Read on to find out.
Dr. Carl Allen (left) is an associate professor at Texas Children’s Cancer Center and one of the investigators involved in the North American Consortium for Histiocytosis (NACHO), which received a St. Baldrick’s Consortium Grant. St. Baldrick’s researcher Dr. Alex Huang (right) is a professor of pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and a 10-time shavee with St. Baldrick’s.
St. Baldrick’s researchers Dr. Alex Huang and Dr. Carl Allen work on different projects, in different labs about 1,300 miles away from each other.
Dr. Huang primarily studies how immunotherapy can help kids with cancer, while Dr. Allen studies Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis or LCH, which is caused by out-of-control immature white blood cells. The disorder can cause inflammatory tumors, damage organs and even cause brain degeneration in some patients.
The two researchers may work in different areas on different projects, but since the start of their careers in medicine, they’ve shared a goal — to help sick kids get better. And now they have something else in common.
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