Tremor Lifeline Appeal launched to support 'miracle' treatment for brain disorders

22 June 2018

Tremor Lifeline Appeal launched to support 'miracle' treatment for brain disorders
Imperial Health Charity has launched a £1.5 million fundraising campaign to help develop a new "miracle" treatment for patients with essential tremor.

The Tremor Lifeline Appeal aims to enhance the Acute Imaging Centre at St Mary’s Hospital, enabling world-leading neurologists to offer the treatment to many more patients.

Essential tremor is a brain disorder characterised by uncontrollable shaking. It affects over one million people in the UK, with around 250,000 severely disabled by the condition.

Current treatments such as drug therapies, surgery and a technique known as deep brain stimulation are often ineffective, and some carry significant risks and side effects.

But the new procedure – MRI-guided focused ultrasound – can be carried out without the need for invasive surgery. It involves using a powerful MRI machine to focus ultrasound waves on a specific area of brain tissue. At that point, molecules are vibrated extremely quickly, which creates intense heat to destroy only the targeted tissue and break the abnormal electrical circuits causing the tremor.

The first UK clinical trial of the treatment took place at St Mary’s Hospital last year, using a £1.1 million MRI machine funded by Imperial Health Charity.

During the trial, the procedure was used to treat 13 patients. All experienced significant improvements in the severity of their tremor.

The treatment has now been recommended by NICE – the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence – meaning the team at St Mary’s can continue their essential work.

In order to support them, the appeal will seek to raise £1.5 million to pay for an additional MRI machine as well as structural improvements and a new patient waiting area at the Acute Imaging Centre at St Mary’s.

An event, hosted by comedian and broadcaster Mel Giedroyc, was held at St Mary's on Thursday 21 June to launch the appeal.

Guests included former essential tremor patients, senior members of the Trust executive team and representatives from Insightec, which manufactured the MRI machine.

Professor Wladyslaw Gedroyc, a consultant radiologist at St Mary’s, said the treatment was “as close as you can get to a medical miracle”.

Launching the appeal this week, he added: “We are very grateful to Imperial Health Charity for their initial grant which allowed us to buy the focused ultrasound brain hardware and also for their continued support in our ambition to set up a dedicated focused ultrasound centre to allow us to continue and expand our work in this field.”

Prof Gedroyc and the team at St Mary’s are also exploring how the procedure could be used to treat other brain disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease. In the future it may also be used to treat tumours, epilepsy and dementia.

To find out more about the Tremor Lifeline Appeal and how you can show your support, call 020 3640 7766 or visit www.imperialcharity.org.uk/tremorlifeline