A clinical trial funded by the National Institutes of Health has found that the drug ranibizumab (Lucentis) is highly effective in treating proliferative diabetic retinopathy.
As NIH noted, the findings demonstrate the first major therapy advance in nearly 40 years.
Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., director of NIH’s National Eye Institute (NEI), which funded the trial, said that the latest results from the DRCR Network provide crucial evidence for a safe and effective alternative to laser therapy against proliferative diabetic retinopathy.
The results were published online today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Laser therapy can damage night and side vision
In the news release NIH issued, it has been explained that treating abnormal retinal blood vessels with laser therapy became the standard treatment for proliferative diabetic retinopathy after the NEI announced results of the Diabetic Retinopathy Study in 1976. NIH explained that, although laser therapy effectively preserves central vision, it can damage night and side vision; so, researchers have sought therapies that work as well or better than laser but without such side effects.
Lucentis is one of drugs that block the effects of vascular endothelial growth factor
NIH further explained that a complication of diabetes, diabetic retinopathy can damage blood vessels in the light-sensitive retina in the back of the eye. As the disease worsens, blood vessels may swell, become distorted and lose their ability to function properly. Diabetic retinopathy becomes proliferative when lack of blood flow in the retina increases production of a substance called vascular endothelial growth factor, which can stimulate the growth of new, abnormal blood vessels. These new vessels are prone to bleeding into the center of the eye, often requiring a surgical procedure called a vitrectomy to clear the blood. The abnormal blood vessels can also cause scarring and retinal detachment. Lucentis is among several drugs that block the effects of vascular endothelial growth factor, NIH said.
Rates of serious systemic adverse events, including cardiac arrest and stroke, were similar between the two groups. One patient in the Lucentis group developed endophthalmitis, an infection in the eye. Other side effects were low, with little difference between treatment groups, NIH reported.
Jeffrey G. Gross, M.D., of the Carolina Retina Center in Columbia, South Carolina, who chaired the study, said: “Lucentis should be considered a viable treatment option for people with proliferative diabetic retinopathy, especially for individuals needing anti-vascular endothelial growth factor for diabetic macular edema.”