By Dr. Joshua Mali
Recently, I have been asked if clinical research in the dry AMD space has been halted or stopped due to COVID-19. The answer is surprisingly no! In fact, there has never been more clinical trials on dry AMD in history than there is right now. In addition, they are all still very robust and progressing very nicely. Here is an excellent summary of the major players that could potentially provide a tremendous treatment for dry AMD:
(1) Targeting the Immune System
– We are discovering that our own immune system may be contributing to dry AMD. In particular, the complement system seems to be an important mediator in disease progression. There are 2 eye injection treatment candidates targeting this system that seem very promising:
(1) Zimura (avacincaptad pegol) which targets Complement Factor 5
(2) APL-2 which targets Complement Factor 3
Both these medications are in late stage clinical trials and have a tremendous amount of potential. I am very optimistic that one or both of these treatments will be approved in the near future.
(2) Targeting Inflammation
– We know that inflammation is a major factor in progression of dry AMD and geographic atrophy. Therefore, we are investigating treatments that can potentially address this key issue. A particularly interesting candidate is Oracea, an oral antibiotic known as doxycycline, is being studied to potentially see if there is a significant improvement and able to slow the progression of disease in dry AMD patients. Imagine taking a pill to help your AMD!
(3) Stem Cells
– Stem Cells are a hot topic right now and appear promising. These cells can potentially restore functioning retinal tissue to severely damaged areas of the retina in patients with end-stage/very advanced dry AMD. While this prospect is certainly impressive, this treatment is still in very early clinical trials and needs further investigation to validate efficacy and safety.
Overall, the future is bright for treatment of dry AMD, stay tuned!
Joshua Mali, MD, is a board-certified ophthalmologist and award-winning vitreoretinal surgeon at The Eye Associates, a private multi-specialty ophthalmology practice in Sarasota, Florida. He is the Retina Medical Director of the Macular Degeneration Association (MDA).