Dr David Spencer Speaks on How an Investigational Cell Therapy for Epilepsy Could Help Patients

David Spencer, MD, director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center and professor of neurology at Oregon Health and Science University, talks about how an emerging epilepsy treatment could transform the current level of care for patients with the condition.

Preliminary data from a first-in-human trial of a treatment for epilepsy, presented at the American Academy of Neurology 2023 annual meeting during “First-in-Human Trial of NRTX-1001 GABAergic Interneuron Cell Therapy for Treatment of Focal Epilepsy—Emerging Clinical Trial Results,” could point to the potential for cell therapy to transform the current level of care for epilepsy, says David Spencer, MD, director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center and professor of neurology at Oregon Health and Science University.


In what ways do you think interneuron cell therapy for treatment of focal epilepsy could change the current standard of care for epilepsy treatment, and how might this impact patient outcomes?

The impact of the approach of using cell therapy instead of our traditional approaches of using antiseizure medications, or in some selected cases, doing epilepsy surgery to identify and remove a seizure focus, whether this approach is going to change the standard of care, again, depends really heavily on the outcome of this study that's just getting under way. So, if it proves to be highly effective and safe, it could bring tremendous change to the field.

I think we're excited about the approach in that, for people who can't get good control of their seizures using medication, the primary way at this point that people can target the seizure focus and ultimately become seizure free is through surgery. But it's a more destructive approach. It's ideally identifying and removing just a small area that's responsible for generating the seizures and leaving the rest of the brain untouched, but it does carry with it some risks or complications or trouble with memory or cognition afterwards.

So, this idea of, instead of removing part of the brain, restoring or repairing it, in a sense rebalancing an area so it's no longer prone to seizures, is very attractive. I think it's attractive to us; I can only imagine it'd be attractive to patients. So, it's a shift in our way of thinking. Rather than getting rid of that seizure focus and destroying it, it’s trying to restore it or replenish it.

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