Epilepsy in patients with brain tumours: epidemiology, mechanisms, and management

Lancet Neurol. 2007 May;6(5):421-30. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(07)70103-5.


Epilepsy is common in patients with brain tumours and can substantially affect daily life, even if the tumour is under control. Several factors affect the mechanism of seizures in brain tumours, including tumour type, tumour location, and peritumoral and genetic changes. Prophylactic use of antiepileptic drugs is not recommended, and potential interactions between antiepileptic and chemotherapeutic agents persuades against the use of enzyme-inducing antiepileptic drugs. Multidrug-resistance proteins prevent the access of antiepileptic drugs into brain parenchyma, which partly explains why seizures are frequently refractory to treatment. Lamotrigine, valproic acid, and topiramate are first-line treatments of choice; if insufficient, add-on treatment with levetiracetam or gabapentin can be recommended. On the basis of clinical studies, we prefer to start treatment with valproic acid, adding levetiracetam if necessary. Risks of cognitive side-effects with antiepileptic drugs can add to previous damage by surgery or radiotherapy, and therefore appropriate choice and dose of antiepileptic drug is crucial.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticonvulsants / adverse effects
  • Anticonvulsants / pharmacokinetics
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain Neoplasms / complications*
  • Brain Neoplasms / therapy
  • Drug Interactions
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy*
  • Epilepsy / etiology
  • Epilepsy / metabolism
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antineoplastic Agents