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 tumour miraculously disappeared.
Earlier this year, Roxli Doss was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a rare and extremely aggressive brain tumour 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 girl'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 tumour ever existed.
“The tumour was absent and no longer measurable. We barely saw any swelling or trace that a tumour 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 with the biology of a tumour, but it’s just a hunch.
To Roxli’s family, the vanishing of the tumor is God’s work and an answer to their prayers.
“Praise God for His miracle of healing,” the girl’s mother wrote on Facebook. “And for HAPPY tears that I don’t think will ever stop flowing!!!”
Roxli’s doctors claim that she’s not out of the woods yet, as DIGP is known to be very aggressive, so the 11-year-old will have to be closely monitored going forward. Dr. Harrod declared herself cautiously optimistic.
“No one wants to underestimate this tumour,” Harrod said. “We need to be very vigilant in monitoring her and getting MRI scans going forward so that we can do our best to continue to make sure she’s in the best health possible.”
It’s hard to say if the tumour will ever return, but one thing is for sure: this young girl had gotten an unexpected second chance at life that so very few other DIGP sufferers get.
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