Published: 13-12-2022 14:06 | Updated: 06-07-2023 15:12

Donation enables KI to establish world’s first research centre for cluster headaches

Illustration of man in pain, probably headache.
Foto: Pixabay CC0

Cluster headache, or Horton’s syndrome, is so painful that it is sometimes referred to as “suicide headache”. Thanks to a donation of SEK 35 million from financier and philanthropist Rune Andersson, research group leader Andrea Carmine Belin will very soon be setting up the world’s first research centre specialising exclusively in cluster headaches.

Close-up portrait of Andrea Carmine Belin
Andrea Carmine Belin. Foto: Stefan Zimmerman

Cluster headache causes recurrent attacks of extreme pain on one side of the head, often around the eyes. The attacks last between 15 minutes and three hours, and can occur more than once during a 24-hour period. They typically come in clusters lasting weeks or even months. About 15 per cent of sufferers have a chronic form of the disease, without symptom-free periods of more than three months a year.

Available treatments for cluster headache are only partially effective and the causes of the disease have yet to be fully explored.

“The emergency prophylactic treatments available have been developed for other diseases and aren’t optimal,” says docent and research group leader Andrea Carmine Belin, around whose group the research centre will be built. “We need to know more about the disease before we can identify and develop better treatments, if not cures.”

Combination of preclinical and clinical research

The aim of creating a centre for cluster headache research is to make it easier and faster to combine preclinical and clinical research. Working in parallel like this will bring advances and breakthroughs to patients more quickly. The centre will also facilitate international collaboration and the rapid exchange of knowledge.

With its modern research environments, a well-developed connection with the healthcare sector and a wholly unique biobank of samples and clinical information from patients diagnosed with cluster headache, KI is already fully equipped to establish such a centre. What has so far been lacking is financing. Now, however, Rune Andersson’s SEK 35 million donation will enable Dr Carmine Belin’s research group to grow and develop.

“Our researchers are already making progress in the field, and we aim to get closer to a final solution to this medical mystery,” she says. “Thanks to this generous donation we’ll be able to take our research to another level with the hope of placing KI at the global forefront of cluster headache.”

The Centre for Cluster Headache will be based at the Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet.