A Look at the Future of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Treatment

Researchers Describe Genetic Factors' Affect on Treatment and a Surgical

Technique Developed in China at the American Academy of Ophthalmology

Annual Meeting

Nov 12, 2007, 00:00 ET from American Academy of Ophthalmology

    NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- Two particularly notable research
 presentations at the American Academy of Ophthalmology's Annual Meeting
 described new approaches to the treatment of "wet" Age-Related Macular
 Degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of severe vision loss in the
 western world in people over age 50.
     "Wet" AMD is responsible for the majority of AMD-related vision loss.
 It is characterized by the abnormal growth of blood vessels under the
 retina (a sensitive area at the back of the eye). New treatments that act
 on "wet" AMD's abnormal blood vessel growth, such as Avastin and Lucentis,
 have allowed some patients to obtain meaningful and sustained improvements
 in vision. These types of medications are sometimes combined with a laser
 treatment called photodynamic therapy (PDT) and are useful for some "wet"
 AMD patients. In the United States pharmacotherapies are the most common
 treatment approach. In parts of the world where injection therapy and PDT
 may not be available, surgical treatment may be the best alternative.
     Milam A Brantley, Jr., MD, PhD, an assistant professor of ophthalmology
 and visual sciences at Washington University School of Medicine, spoke on
 how genetic factors may affect the success of Avastin (bevacizumab)
 treatment; and Zhizhong Ma, MD, a professor of ophthalmology and deputy
 director at Peking University Eye Center, Beijing, China, described a
 surgical technique for "wet" AMD that improved vision in 70% of her study's
     Dr. Brantley's study is the first to link genetic factors to patients'
 response to Avastin treatment for "wet" AMD. Previous studies had found
 variants in two genes, CFH and LOC387715, to be associated with AMD. Dr.
 Brantley's study looked at 86 patients to see whether having either of
 these genetic variants affected their responses to Avastin.
     "We found that patients with two copies of the CFH variant faired
 significantly worse than the others in response to treatment with Avastin,"
 Dr. Brantley said, "but we saw no differences in treatment response with
 the LOC387715 variant. We hope that our study and future, similar research
 might lead to the development of more individualized AMD treatments that
 will be more effective and economical."
     Adjusting patients' treatments based on genetic tests is also underway
 or in development in other areas of medicine, such as breast cancer.
     New surgical approaches to "wet" AMD are being explored by
 ophthalmologists around the world. The technique developed by Dr. Ma's
 group in Beijing, China, achieved unprecedented success in improving
 patients' vision while also maintaining transplant tissue integrity and
 incurring fewer complications during or after surgery. This could make a
 significant difference in AMD treatment in certain population groups.
     About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
     AAO is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons
 -- Eye M.D.s -- with more than 27,000 members worldwide. Eye health care is
 provided by the three "O's" -- opticians, optometrists and
 ophthalmologists. It is the ophthalmologist, or Eye M.D., who can treat it
 all: eye diseases and injuries, and perform eye surgery. For more
 information, visit the Academy's Web site at http://www.aao.org.

SOURCE American Academy of Ophthalmology