In this month’s research news, treatments, genetic analysis, and preclinical work offer hope to those impacted by hard-to-treat or difficult-to-diagnose forms of epilepsy.
Exciting treatment developments include a positive Phase 3 clinical trial outcomefor the cannabidiol-based drug EPIDIOLEX® for the treatment of seizures associated with tuberous sclerosis complex. In addition, an improved treatment regimen targeting the severe, prolonged seizures that make up status epilepticus has been created.
In promising genetics news, a report from CURE’s own Epilepsy Genetics Initiativeunderscores the value of continued reanalysis of genetic information from people with epilepsy to increase their chances of obtaining a genetic diagnosis for their epilepsy.
Additionally, important preclinical work led by CURE Grantees Dr. Chris Dulla and Dr. Janice Naegele uncovers a potential drug to treat post-traumatic epilepsy and a way to restore the balance of brain activity and reduce seizures in temporal lobe epilepsy, respectively.
Summaries of all highlighted studies follow below. I’ve organized the findings into four categories: Treatment Advances, Diagnostic Advances, Research Discoveries, and Also Notable.
GW Pharmaceuticals Reports Reduction in Seizure Frequency for EPIDIOLEX® (cannabidiol) Oral Solution in Patients with Seizures Associated With Tuberous Sclerosis Complex
GW Pharmaceuticals and Greenwich Biosciences announced positive top-line results of a Phase 3 clinical trial of EPIDIOLEX® (cannabidiol or CBD) in the treatment of seizures associated with Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC). TSC is a rare and severe form of childhood-onset epilepsy. In this trial, EPIDIOLEX met its primary endpoint, which was a reduction in seizure frequency in the group given EPIDIOLEX compared to the placebo group.
Breakthrough for Children with Serious Epileptic Seizures
A new treatment regimen of administering levetiracetam and phenytoin one after the other has given emergency medicine doctors a better way to treat severe, prolonged epileptic seizures in children. These treatment modifications will lower the chances of intubation and intensive care, as well as increase the chances of children recovering more quickly.
The Epilepsy Genetics Initiative: Systematic Reanalysis of Diagnostic Exomes Increases Yield
Featuring CURE’s Epilepsy Genetics Initiative
Results from CURE’s Epilepsy Genetics Initiative (EGI) show that when the genetic information of a person with epilepsy is systematically reanalyzed, there is an increase in the return of a genetic diagnosis. Eight new diagnoses were made as a result of updated annotations or the discovery of novel epilepsy genes after the initial diagnostic analysis was performed. One novel epilepsy gene was discovered through dual interrogation of research and clinically generated whole-exome sequencing. According to this recently-published report, EGI’s contributions to gene discovery underscore the importance of data sharing and the value of collaborative enterprises.
Using a Drug that Mimics the Ketogenic Diet to Help Prevent Epilepsy after Traumatic Brain Injury
Featuring the work of CURE Grantee Dr. Chris Dulla
Neuroscientists led by CURE Grantee Dr. Chris Dulla at Tufts University School of Medicine prevented the development of epileptic activity in mice after traumatic brain injury by using a drug that mimics the metabolic effects of the ketogenic diet.
Neural Stem Cell Transplantation May Reduce Abnormal Increases in New Cells in the Brains of Mice with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy
Featuring the work of CURE Grantee Dr. Janice Naegele
According to a new, CURE-funded study featuring the work of grantee Dr. Janice Naegele, the transplantation of inhibitory cells into the brains of mice with temporal lobe epilepsy may reduce the abnormal growth of new neurons in an area of the brain called the hippocampus. This in turn could reduce brain hyperexcitability that leads to seizures.
Stimulating the Epileptic Brain Breaks Up Neural Networks to Prevent Seizures
Responsive neurostimulation treats epilepsy by detecting seizures and intervening with a jolt of electric current. Over time, most patients find their seizures become fewer and further between. New evidence suggests responsive neurostimulation can remodel the brain to be less susceptible to seizures.
Scientists Discover Trigger Region for Absence Epileptic Seizures
Scientists have discovered a neurological origin for absence seizures – a type of seizure characterized by very short periods of lost consciousness in which people appear to stare blankly at nothing. Using a mouse model of childhood epilepsy, a group of scientists has shown that absence epilepsy can be triggered by impaired communication between two brain regions: the cortex and the striatum.
Autism-Related Memory and Seizures Improved through Gene Repair in Adults
Scientists have shown that correcting the protein deficiency caused by a genetic form of autism spectrum disorder in adult mice can improve behavioral and electrophysiological measures of both memory and seizure. The evidence suggests this is true even when the treatment is carried out well past what has traditionally been thought of as the critical window of early brain development.
Drug Used to Treat Multiple Sclerosis May Be Beneficial for Individuals with Epilepsy
A drug commonly used to treat multiple sclerosis may, after necessary modifications, one day be used to treat patients with epilepsy, according to research from the laboratory of Dr. Inna Slutsky.
Study Reveals How Glial Cells May Play Key Epilepsy Role
A study provides potential new targets for treating epilepsy and novel fundamental insights into the relationship between neurons and their glial “helper” cells. This study reports finding a key sequence of molecular events in which the genetic mutation in a fruit fly model of epilepsy leaves neurons vulnerable to becoming hyper-activated by stress, leading to seizures.
Ketogenic Diet May Reduce Sudden Unexpected Deaths in Epilepsy, Mouse Study Suggests
Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) occurs more frequently during the early evening and is significantly prevented by prolonged use of the ketogenic diet, research in a mouse model of Dravet syndrome suggests. The reasons why this happens are unclear and should be examined in more depth by future studies, but these findings may be useful to understand why most SUDEP episodes happen at night and how certain diets can benefit people with epilepsy, especially those with Dravet syndrome, researchers say.
Attention, Behavioral Problems Common in New, Recent-Onset Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy
Children with new recent-onset juvenile myoclonic epilepsy are more likely to have difficulty with executive, attention, and verbal faculties than their healthy peers and are also more likely to use a greater number of academic services, researchers found.
Zogenix Receives Refusal to File Letter from FDA for FINTEPLA® New Drug Application
Zogenix announced that it received a Refusal to File letter from the FDA regarding its New Drug Application (NDA) for FINTEPLA® for the treatment of seizures associated with Dravet syndrome. Upon its preliminary review, the FDA determined that the NDA was not sufficiently complete to permit a substantive review.