Levetiracetam therapy in patients with brain tumour and epilepsy

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Epilepsy is a common clinical problem in patients with brain tumours, strongly affecting patients' quality of life. Tumour-related seizures are often difficult to control, and the clinical picture is complicated by frequent interactions between antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) and antineoplastic agents. We studied the safety and efficacy of levetiracetam (LEV), a new AED with a different pharmacological profile from traditional anticonvulsants, in 19 patients (6 females; age range 28-70 years, mean 48 years) with supratentorial gliomas and epilepsy. Seizure types were simple partial in four patients, complex partial in 4, complex partial with secondary generalization in 7, and generalized tonic-clonic in 4. LEV was added to the existing AED treatment on account of persisting seizures, and titrated at dosages of 1,000-3,000 mg/day. Patients were seen at the Outpatient's Centre every 1-3 months, and followed-up for 7-50 months (mean 25 months, median 20 months). At the end of the observation period, nine patients were seizure free (seizure free period ranging from 7 to 33 months, mean 16, median 12) and five patients reported an improvement in seizure-frequency from daily to weekly (n = 1) or from weekly to monthly (n = 3). Seizure frequency was unmodified in four patients and increased (from monthly to weekly) in one. No LEV-related adverse effects were observed. LEV plasma concentrations monitored in 12 subjects ranged from 11.9 to 82.1 μg/ml. Our preliminary open data indicate that add-on treatment with LEV in patients with brain tumours is safe and appears to be effective in reducing seizure frequency. Controlled studies on larger populations are warranted to confirm these open observations.

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