Doctors at Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin have been stunned by the unexpected recovery of an 11-year-old girl whose inoperable brain tumor miraculously disappeared.
Earlier this year, Roxli Doss was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a rare and extremely aggressive brain tumor with a very low survival rate. It was well-incorporated into her brain stem, making it impossible to remove surgically, so the doctors told the girld’s parents to make the most of the time they had left with her. However, they also decided to try radiation therapy, as it had been shown to extend a patient’s life by three to six months. Radiation isn’t a cure; in fact DIPG is an incurable condition , so therefore the diagnostic is considered terminal. But in Roxli’s case, the treatment literally worked wonders. After six weeks of radiation, an MRI showed almost no signs that the tumor ever existed.
“The tumor was absent and no longer measurable. We barely saw any swelling or trace that a tumor had been there” Dr. Virginia Harrod, co-chief of the hospital’s pediatric neuro-oncology department at Dell Children’s Medical Center, said. “It’s extraordinarily rare to have this type of near complete resolution of this disease. It’s unusual and atypical and something we were all very pleased with.”
The prognostic for DIPG is “dismal”, Dr. Harrod added, so when 11-year-old Roxli was diagnosed with it back in June, after experiencing headaches and vision loss, all doctors could do was try to extend the time she had left. The girl’s recovery is nothing short of miraculous, as Harrod said that she has never seen this kind of response to radiation treatment in any of her previous DIPG patients, although she has heard of a handful of similar cases from other doctors.
Performing a biopsy in such a sensitive part of the brain wouldn’t be worth the risk, and Roxli’s parents have already declined to have one done, so it’s hard for physicians to establish how exactly this miracle occurred. Dr. Harrod said that she suspects the recovery may have had something to do withe the biology of the tumor, but it’s just a hunch.