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What Does The Future Of Epilepsy Research Hold?

It is difficult to know for sure how treatments for seizures will improve over the next 10 years. What is clear is that we need to be able to better predict which drugs will work best for an individual with epilepsy. We need drugs that treat the underlying cause of epilepsy and not just those that will prevent seizures. To enable this, we need to develop better biomarkers – things that we can measure in the blood or in a scan.

For example, biomarkers could tell us whether inflammation is an important cause of a person’s epilepsy. It may be that treating brain inflammation in the future may reduce the severity of seizures, or even prevent or cure epilepsy for some people. The success rates of surgical treatment for refractory epilepsy (that is epilepsy that is hard to treat/drug resistant) has remained stable for many years. Surgery remains an effective treatment for carefully selected people with epilepsy. Still, there remains a proportion of patients who will not be completely seizure free after surgery, and it remains difficult to predict who they will be. One major recent advance is the discovery of new biomarkers of treatment success.

There are an increasing number of studies that are identifying clinical, genetic, physiological and brain imaging predictors of seizure freedom after drug or surgical treatment. It is important to be able to predict treatment outcome as this will help epilepsy specialists choose the most appropriate treatment for a given patient at the earliest time point. This may help bring seizures under control earlier for many patients. On the basis of recent progress, it is likely that in the next ten years there will be non-invasive biomarkers that will provide important information about the cause of someone’s epilepsy, and reliably and safely identify which treatment approaches are likely to be most effective.

Dr Simon Keller and Prof Tony Marson.

 

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