Neuroimmunology Program - IDIBAPS

What are Paraneoplastic Neurologic Disorders?

Paraneoplastic neurologic disorders (PND) are immune-mediated diseases of the nervous system (brain and/or spinal cord). Patients with one of the PND have or will develop cancer and therefore treatment of these patients includes treating both the neurologic problem and the cancer. The PND can affect any part of the nervous system and can look like other more common disorders. Most patients with PND are older and often then have risk factors to develop cancer. Recovery from PND is variable and most patients will have continued problems.

How are PND diagnosed?

The diagnosis of PND depends heavily on the clinical evaluation including the patients’ medical history and symptoms. Importantly most patients with these disorders have antibodies (immune proteins) in their blood or the cerebral spinal fluid that are specific for these disorders. Many of these antibodies and the tests to measure them have been identified by researchers in our program. For the PND that are associated with cancer, tests such as CAT scan or PET imaging are done to help find the cancer.

How are these disorders treated?

In general these disorders are treated with immunotherapies including steroids, intravenous immunoglobulins (IVIg), plasma exchange among others. When a cancer is found we work with medical oncologists to address its treatment that can include chemotherapy or radiation.

How our center contributes?

We are an international center of referral for the study of these disorders. Our physicians have many years of clinical experience diagnosing and treating patients with PND and autoimmune synaptic encephalitis. Our researchers are the leaders in the field of identifying the immune proteins that are used to diagnose these diseases and for developing new treatment strategies that improve outcomes for patients.