Study confirms long-term benefit of anti-VEGF therapy for age-related macular degeneration

Patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of major vision loss in older people, still show benefits from a new class of therapy—originally developed to treat cancer—after long-term treatment.
The finding comes from a follow-up study of patients in a large clinical trial who were treated with drugs that inhibit vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). After an average of 5.5 years from starting treatment, half the patients retained visual acuity in the affected eye of 20/40 or better, which is normally sufficient for driving without glasses. Before anti-VEGF drugs became available a decade ago, AMD patients fared much worse.
The study, coordinated by a team at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, confirms the long-term clinical value of targeting VEGF, a molecule whose abnormal overproduction in the eye drives vision loss in AMD. Patients in the study took Avastin (bevacizumab) or Lucentis (ranibizumab), the first two widely used anti-VEGF drugs.
“The good news is that patients are having much better visual outcomes than even dreamed about ten years ago—but there’s still a considerable proportion of patients for whom long term outcomes are not good, and we need better treatments for them,” said senior investigator Maureen G. Maguire, PhD, Carolyn F. Jones Professor of Ophthalmology at Penn Medicine.
The results are being presented today at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) in Seattle and published simultaneously in the journal Ophthalmology.
AMD before anti-VEGF therapies
AMD in all its forms is estimated to affect about 6.5 percent of people in the U.S. over age 40, or roughly ten million Americans. It features the degeneration of the macula, the central region of the retina, in which a concentration of color-sensing cone cells normally provides high-resolution color vision wherever the gaze is directed.
The most severe AMD-related vision loss comes from “wet” or “neovascular” AMD, in which new blood vessels grow under or into the retina. The resulting vessels, that depend on VEGF, are abnormally fragile and leaky, and their proliferation and associated fluid buildup lead to macular damage and increasing loss of vision in the central visual field, making it increasingly difficult for sufferers to drive, read, and recognize faces…….
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Source: Medical Xpress