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New study finds potential therapy for tumour-associated epilepsy

September 12, 2011 - London

Glioma, one of the most deadly and common types of Brain Tumour, is often associated with seizures, but the origins of these seizures and effective treatments for them have been elusive until now.

A team funded by the National Institutes of Health has found that human gliomas implanted in mice release excess levels of the brain chemical glutamate, over stimulating neurons near the tumour and triggering seizures.

The researchers also found that sulfasalazine, a drug on the market for treating certain inflammatory disorders, can reduce seizures in mice with glioma.

"Seizures are a frequent symptom of glioma and are often poorly controlled by epilepsy medications," said Jane Fountain, Ph.D., a program director at NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

"Understanding why the seizures occur and how to counteract them could help us substantially improve the quality of life for people with glioma," she said.

Harald Sontheimer, Ph.D., a professor of neurobiology and director of the Center for Glial Biology in Medicine at the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) added: "People have assumed that tumours cause seizures by irritating the brain, but that really isn't a scientific explanation."

"We have now shown that the seizures are caused by glutamate release from the tumour," he stated.

The findings have been published in Nature Medicine.


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