Conference Coverage

Nicotine patch may be an effective precision therapy for select epilepsies



Patients with epilepsy with gene variants in subunits of the neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) may benefit from treatment with a nicotine patch, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Epilepsy Society. Of four epilepsy patients at one center who received nicotine-patch treatment, three had a good clinical response, one of whom became seizure free.

“We confirm that, in select patients, treatment with a nicotine patch ... can be an effective precision therapy for epilepsy. We propose consideration of nicotine-patch treatment in refractory patients with known cholinergic nicotine receptor subunit variants, especially those with a clinical history consistent with autosomal dominant nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy (ADNFLE),” said Jordana Fox, DO, and Alison Dolce, MD, both with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Gene variants in CHRAn4,CHRNA2, and CHRNB2 can cause ADNFLE. Preclinical and n-of-1 studies have suggested that nicotine may be a precision treatment for ADNFLE.

Dr. Fox and Dr. Dolce reviewed next-generation sequencing epilepsy panels from patients seen at Children’s Medical Center, Dallas, during 2011-2015 to identify patients with nAChR gene variants (CHNRA4, CHRNA2, CHRNB2, and CHRNA7). They reviewed patients’ medical and laboratory records, including genetic variant details and treatment history, and focused on patients who underwent a trial of nicotine-patch treatment.

Of the 21 patients who had nAChR gene variants, 4 tried treatment with a nicotine patch, either 7 mg or 14 mg. The patients who received nicotine-patch treatment had genetic variants in CHRNA4, CHRNB2, and CHRNA2. Three of the patients who tried nicotine-patch treatment had a greater than 50% reduction in seizures, whereas one had no treatment response.

“One patient became seizure free and is now treated with the nicotine patch as monotherapy,” Dr. Fox said.

The patient with complete resolution of seizures had a heterozygous disease–causing mutation in CHRNB2. This patient had nocturnal focal seizures, normal neuroimaging, and had been receiving treatment with oxcarbazepine and zonisamide.

The review identified four patients with nAChR gene variants and the ADNFLE phenotype who have not been treated with nicotine. Further phenotype-genotype characterizations and preclinical studies will help neurologists understand the mechanisms of these complex gene variants.

The researchers received no funding for the study and had no relevant financial disclosures.

SOURCE: Fox J et al. AES 2018, Abstract 1.230.

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