New treatment for epilepsy may also be good for other diseases

The Netherlands has about 130,000 patients with chronic epilepsy. There is currently no treatment available for some of these people. About thirty to forty percent do not respond to the medication and surgery is often not possible. Researchers and doctors from radiotherapy center Maastro, epilepsy center Kempenhaeghe and Maastricht UMC+ now think that precision radiation can be a solution for them.

In the autumn they will start the research in collaboration with the Sein epilepsy center, Amsterdam UMC and UMC Utrecht.

Quality of life

“It is a new weapon in the fight against forms of epilepsy that are very difficult to treat. In some countries, patients are already treated in this way. We also have this knowledge and expertise in the Netherlands,” says Albert Colon, neurologist and clinical neurophysiologist at ACE Kempenhaeghe. and Maastricht UMC+.

In the study, half of the patients are treated with the regular medication, the other half receive precision radiation. “We expect that some of the epilepsy patients will be able to achieve so-called seizure freedom with this treatment. So that they will no longer have epileptic seizures. Some will even be completely cured, we think,” Colon tells EditieNL.

The quality of life after the examination is also mapped out. “Because that is of course our main goal: a good quality of life.”

More accurate

Daniëlle Eekers, radiotherapist at Maastro, explains how the treatment works: “They are high-energy X-rays. We call them photons. I sometimes compare it to packets of energy. Those packets go in on one side of the body and on the other. they come out on the other side. Inside the body they release energy. If you send a lot of such packets of energy to, for example, a tumor, you can destroy it.”

But there are also risks to this treatment. Because patients often move, there is a margin of one or two millimeters around the irradiated area, which can also damage healthy tissue. Because the researchers have received a subsidy, they can purchase a new, more accurate device. “You want to irradiate as precisely as possible, especially in the brain, and that is possible with this device,” says Eekers. “Also, side effects such as headaches and damage to healthy tissue are much more limited.”

Lots to learn

Research is currently being conducted into whether precision radiation can also be effective in, for example, psychiatric disorders, such as an obsessive-compulsive disorder. “Normally, the surgeon makes a small cut in the brain, but not everyone can have that operation.” Researchers are also looking at whether the radiation can help with cardiac arrhythmias.

“Who knows what else it could be good for. I’m not ruling out anything. There is still a lot to learn.”