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24 May 2016

Surgeons test new stroke drug made from broccoli chemical

Surgeons are trialling a new drug based on a chemical found in broccoli to try to improve outcomes for stroke patients, who frequently go on to develop conditions such as epilepsy.

Diederik Bulters, a consultant neurosurgeon at Southampton General Hospital, and his team will assess the effect of experimental drug SFX-01 on patients who have received treatment for a bleed on the brain known as a subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH), which is a type of stroke.

SFX-01 is a synthetic form of sulforaphane, a small molecule that occurs naturally in broccoli and is part of a group of chemicals found in plants - phytochemicals - that are strong antioxidants and can help regulate some of the body's functions.

Improving outcomes for patients

Mr Bulters said: "It is essential we work to improve outcomes for patients who have a subarachnoid haemorrhage as many of those who survive are left disabled and suffer long term cognitive and emotional problems, changing their lives forever.

"Despite the need, there have been no significant clinical developments since the introduction of nimodipine more than 20 years ago, so we are absolutely delighted to offer patients the opportunity to be involved with this exciting new treatment."

"Significant moment"

He added: "This is also a significant moment for me and the team as, having researched the potential benefits of sulforaphane in this patient group, we were frustrated that there was no practical way to administer it - until the development of SFX-01."

More than 6,000 people in England - mainly aged between 45 and 70 - are admitted to neuro-intensive care units with subarachnoid haemorrhage every year.

SAH and epilepsy

Around half of all cases are fatal, while 50 per cent of survivors suffer some long-term impairment such as epilepsy, brain dysfunction or emotional issues.

Initially, patients who develop SAH, which is normally caused by a weakness in the wall of a blood vessel that bursts open, undergo a surgical procedure to repair the bleed.

Nimodipine

They then receive medication in the form of drug nimodipine to prevent common complication cerebral ischaemia, which restricts blood flow to the brain through narrowing of the arteries and commonly occurs in the first few days after a haemorrhage.

Nimodipine is currently the only drug proven to improve outcomes for patients who have suffered SAH.

The trial

The trial will involve 90 patients taking SFX-01 in 300mg doses in combination with nimodipine over two years.

It is hoped the drug could help to prevent complications after SAH by reducing inflammation and improving blood flow to the brain.

 

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