A biopsy is a sample of tissue removed from the body for testing. For most tumors, a biopsy is a standard diagnostic tool because it allows the doctors to determine the tumor’s characteristics.
Medical professionals who specialize in DIPG/DMG now agree that biopsies are crucial in understanding a tumor’s biological makeup and the key gene mutations that control the tumor cells’ growth. Tissue samples from the biopsy are important in determining the best possible treatment options for your child and are often a requirement for enrollment in many clinical trials.
A DIPG/DMG biopsy should be carried out by a team with experience with the procedure and knowledge of how the tissue should be analyzed to get the information that would be useful for that patient’s treatment considerations.
Until recently, doctors did not regularly perform biopsies to diagnose DIPG/DMG. They instead diagnosed the disease based solely on a patient’s symptoms and MRI scans. Historically, biopsies were not recommended because it was thought the risks to the patient were not justified because knowledge from the biopsy did not influence treatment decisions. However, doctors have now shown that the procedure, when done by a well-trained team using the latest technological advancements, can be performed safely, and determining the genetic makeup of a patient’s tumor can now help guide treatment decisions for that patient.
If you decide to move forward with a biopsy, a stereotactic biopsy will be performed. A “stereotactic” biopsy uses MRI scans of the brain tumor and a highly sophisticated computer to help guide a small needle into the tumor to retrieve tissue samples. Thanks to this advancement in technology, a stereotactic biopsy helps avoid essential nerves in the pons.
There may be specific biopsy requirements for some clinical trials. Be sure to discuss this with your physician before the biopsy procedure. My DIPG Navigator can help you understand the biopsy requirements, if needed. After the procedure is done, the results will be made available to you and will enable your medical team to provide you with options for treatments or clinical trials. Biopsies can be completed before and/or after radiation therapy. Data that is discovered through analyzing the biopsy can be shared with other clinical trials if you desire.