AES: Cannabidiol, Bioinformatics Highlight Epilepsy Meeting

Pauline Anderson

November 30, 2016

HOUSTON — Cannabidiol (CBD), one of the active cannabinoids in cannabis, continues to be a hot treatment topic among epilepsy experts, and this will be reflected by presentations of related research here at the American Epilepsy Society (AES) 2016 Annual Meeting.

Some 21 scientific presentations involving CBD will be released and discussed at the meeting, which takes place December 2–6, said AES President Michael D. Privitera, MD, professor, neurology, and director, Epilepsy Center, University of Cincinnati, Ohio.

This includes the first full reports of two of the three completed randomized controlled trials of cannabidiol product Epidiolex (GW Pharmaceuticals), he said.

"These are the first ever reports of placebo-controlled trials in epilepsy with cannabidiol, and I believe the first in any therapeutic area," he told Medscape Medical News.

GW Pharmaceuticals released topline results of its three trials in a press release earlier this year. "All three studies were positive," said Dr Privitera, adding that the company's stock "skyrocketed" afterward.

"However, all they said was that 'the study was positive for the primary outcome' and provided no other details," he said.

More details of these studies will be revealed at the meeting. One of the studies included patients with Dravet syndrome, and the other enrolled patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS). The second LGS study was not completed in time to be submitted for the meeting, he noted.

Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD is not psychoactive. In addition to possible seizure control, CBD is believed to have a wide range of other medical applications.

Precision Medicine

Unlike past meetings, this one will have an increased focus on precision medicine, says Peter B. Crino, chair, Department of Neurology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, who helped design the scientific program.

"This is targeted therapies, so not just using blockbuster drugs to fit everybody, but really looking at molecular targets, genes that cause individual behaviors, and then trying to pick therapies that kind of go for those genes."

Another "very exciting" area in epilepsy that will be emphasized at the meeting is bioinformatics, using computer software to analyze large data sets, said Dr Crino. "It has been coming to a spot where we can actually begin to use bioinformatics to look at large numbers of gene mutations and variants across peoples' genomes."

This year's presidential symposium on Saturday "will not be your typical review talk," Dr Privitera assured Medscape Medical News. He has secured noted speakers in most of the major diagnostic and therapeutic areas. They will not only address the current state of epilepsy care but speculate about what the future will hold — 20 or so years down the road — in areas of imaging, drug development, genetics, surgery, and bioinformatics, said Dr Privitera.

Other meeting highlights include the following:

  • Tips on how to select among all the new surgical procedures for epilepsy and match these to the individual patient (Epilepsy Specialist Symposium, Friday);

  • An update on research in sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) by former AES President Elson So, MD, professor of neurology and director of the Section of Electroencephalography, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota (Friday);

  • A discussion by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention personnel about funded programs to advance epilepsy, based on recommendations of the 2012 Institute of Medicine report "Epilepsy Across the Spectrum: Promoting Health and Understanding." The report highlighted numerous gaps in the knowledge and management of epilepsy and recommended actions for improving the lives of those with epilepsy and their families and for promoting a better understanding of the disorder (Saturday);

  • The annual course "What to Do When All Else Fails: Intractable Epilepsy" featuring multiple experts discussing their personal approach to cases that span infancy to adulthood (Sunday);

  • The Merritt Putnam symposium, centering on multiscale imaging in epilepsy. "It will go from imaging cells, to circuits, to transmitters, and then full brain imaging for memory," said Dr Privitera (Monday);

  • The latest advances in tuberous sclerosis, including new discoveries on mechanisms and breakthrough treatments, addressed at a Pediatric State of the Art symposium (Monday); and

  • A Hot Topics session that will include discussions of newer, less invasive radiosurgery methods, how to use the newest antiepileptic drugs, and seizure apps for seizure detection, Dr Privitera noted (Tuesday).

Medscape Medical News coverage from onsite reporters will begin December 2; follow us on Twitter @MedscapeNeuro. To search the AES scientific or educational programs, visit the AES website. Follow the annual meeting Twitter feed using #AES2016.

American Epilepsy Society (AES) 2016 Annual Meeting: December 2–5, 2016.

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