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Radiotherapy for Wet AMD Print E-mail

Several research programs are looking at various types of radiation treatment for wet macular degeneration.  Recently, one form, brachyotherapy, showed disappointing results.

But, at the Academy of Ophthalmology meeting, another treatment was more encouraging. Dr. Darius M. Moshfeghi, from Standord University, reported on a technique called Radiotherapy.  It does seem to reduce the number of injections needed in people with wet AMD, which was the goal of treatment.

Argus II Gets Medicare Code Print E-mail

A few months ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the Argus II retinal implant in those with retinitis pigmentosa (RP).  This month, Medicare issued a billing code, clearing the way for payment.

The Argus II has been under development for years, with hope that it could provide an "artificial retina" and return vision to those who are blind.  People with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) lose portions of their vision over a span of years, eventually becoming completely blind.  Since those who have age-related macular degeneration always retain some peripheral vision, the Argus II is not an option at this time.

AMD and Alzheimer's Print E-mail

Are macular degeneration and Alzheimer's disease linked in some way?  In recent years, some have said yes, pointing to the presence of plaque in both diseases.  In Alzheimer's, there is plaque on the brain; in AMD, it takes the form of protein deposits (drusen) in the retina.  And certainly, people with Alzheimer's do get age-related macular degeneration.  But, more recent research does not see them connected.

Gene Therapy for Wet AMD Print E-mail

According to Jeffrey S. Heier, MD, the eye is the ideal location to try gene therapy because it is such a small organ.   Two Phase I clinical trials are underway to study the safety and dosages of different gene therapies for wet AMD.  In gene therapy, a virus vector (a sort of transport vehicle) carries the therapy to the retina.  A piece of DNA is spliced into an engineered virus. The benefit is that it can persist indefinitely; it would be a one time treatment.The technique has been successfully used to treat Leber congenital amaurosis type 2 (a retinal disease that affects children),so there is some hope it might be used successfully for macular degeneration.

StemCells, Inc. for AMD Print E-mail

This month, StemCells, Inc. announced the completion of the first of two cohorts (groups) in their study of neural stem cells for dry AMD.  The product used in this research are HuCNS-SC cells are different from some of the other stem cell trials.  They are purified human neural stem cells.  In previous work, these cells were shown to survive a long time, holding out the possibility that a single injection could provide a lasting effect.

Implantable Miniature Telescope Update Print E-mail
The Macular Degeneration Partnership has received numerous questions about the IMT - Implantable Miniature Telescope - since it was approved by the FDA in 2010. The IMT is becoming more widely available now.  The IMT is a tiny telescope implanted inside the eye that may benefit older adults with advanced AMD. Smaller than a pea, this device is proven to restore sight and quality of life in eligible candidates. Unfortunately, the inclusion criteria to be eligible for the device are narrow.  Most importantly, the IMT can only be implanted into an eye that has not had a cataract removed yet.   We encourage you to review the below information to see if you or a loved one might be a candidate for this procedure.
Exercise and AMD - New Research Print E-mail

We know that exercise is good for your heart and your eyes, that people who exercise regularly are generally healthier, and that sedentary lifestyle can contribute to macular degeneration.  New research at the Atlanta VA Center for Visual and Neurocognitive Rehabilitation confirms that exercise is good for your retina, specifically.

Vitamins and Genes Print E-mail

One of the most interesting potentials for genetic testing is to determine if a patient's genes will affect how well a treatment works.  This could include how well vitamin supplementation for AMD works.  There is some evidence that certain patients respond better to the AREDS formula.  On the other hand, routine genetic testing is not recommended.  Two researchers discussed this issue.

Eye Drops Update Print E-mail

At the eye meeting in Miami this month, wet AMD was the topic.  Dr. Lawrence J. Singerman gave an update on the status of Squalamine eye drops.  We've been hearing about these for awhile now.  They are in a Phase II clinical trial and the data from that will be released at the end of this year.  In the meantime, we have some updates.

Dry AMD Emerging Therapies Print E-mail

One of the greatest frustrations in macular degeneration is the lack of treatment for dry or atrophic macular degeneration.  Of all the millions of people with AMD, about 80-85% of them have the dry form of the disease.  Currently, the only thing available to those individuals is making changes in their lifestyle risk factors and taking the AREDS supplement.  The AREDS (Age-Related Eye Disease Study) formula was shown to slow the progression of the disease by 25% in those with intermediate dry AMD.

At the recent Academy of Ophthalmology Retina meeting, several reports carried updates on some potential therapies for dry AMD - and they don't rely on injections into the eye.  There are two main issues with dry macular degeneration: drusen and geographic atrophy.  Drusen are protein deposit in the retina.  Geographic atrophy is a more advanced form of dry AMD which involves patches of cells in the retina to die off.  

Lampalizumab for Dry AMD Print E-mail

If you missed our September report, this is an update to the MAHALO Phase II results reported at the recent Academy of Ophthalmology meeting by Dr. Carl D. Regillo, Director of the Retina program at Wills Eye Institute in Philadelphia.

The MAHALO clinical trial of "lampalizumab" showed some exciting progress for dry macular degeneration. The advanced form of dry AMD is called geographic atrophy (GA), in which a whole patch of cells degenerate and stop working. The larger the patch, the worse the vision - and the patch tends to get bigger as things progress.

Artificial Vision Options Print E-mail

At the recent Academy of Ophthalmology Conference, eye doctors were given an update on the status of artificial vision or artificial retina.  One device has been approved by the FDA and another, already approved in Europe, will soon begin clinical trials in the U.S.

Neuroprotection-Halting Cell Death Print E-mail

"Photoreceptor cell death is the ultimate cause of vision loss in many eye diseases, including AMD.", according to Dr. Joan W. Miller, from Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.  The photoreceptors are the light sensitive cells that are the first layer of the human retina.  They are the "rods", which give us black and white vision and the "cones", which provide color vision.


There are several causes of cell death in diseases like AMD and more than one may be active at the same time.
Lucentis vs Avastin Print E-mail

Since the FDA approval of Lucentis - and the off-label use of Avastin - there has been an ongoing debate about which treatment is best. At every Retina meeting for years, the pros and cons have been presented and this year is no different, though several speakers felt it had been resolved for once and for all.  Dr. Daniel F. Martin, who headed the NEI's comparison study (CATT), stated, "Very few of the differences between these drugs, whether they favor Lucentis or Avastin, are clinically significant. I think we're done with this question."

Several clinical trials were reported that showed Lucentis and Avastin to be essentially the same in effectiveness and safety.  But physicians continue to use both treatments, as some patients respond better to one or the other - and switching treatment from one to the other can sometimes be more effective at some point.

Dry AMD StemCells, Inc. Clinical Trial Print E-mail

The STEM clinical trial has just treated the first high-dose patient in their Phase I/II clinical trial for dry macular degeneration.  One million HuCNS-SC cells were injected beneath the retina.  Patients treated earlier in the trial only received 200,000 cells.  A review of the safety data found no issues, so the researchers were approved to use the higher dose.

There are a total of 16 patients in the trial and the remaining subjects will all receive the one million cell dose.  The company is also expanding the number of trial sites.  They hope both of these actions, approved by the FDA, will move the research forward more quickly.

Pazopanib Eye Drops Print E-mail

The majority of current treatments for wet AMD (Lucentis, Avastin, Eylea, Macugen) stop the growth of blood vessels by acting again VEGF, the growth factor that prompts the blood vessel growth.  They require repeated injections into the eye, sometimes once a month and are expensive. Doctors and patients alike would prefer an AMD therapy that is less invasive.

A clinical trial is underway to study whether the use of eye drops could maintain or improve vision, while reducing the number of injections.  The objective was, 1.  to show that the eye drops were "noninferior" to Lucentis (i.e., they did at least as good a job) and 2. to reduce the number of injections by 50%.

Pazopanib is a small molecule that acts against not only multiple VEGF signals, but also against another growth factor, called PDGF.  The eye drops were administered daily by the patients themselves.  Treatment with Lucentis was given monthly to one group and as needed to the rest of the participants.  There were different dosages used and one group of patients received a sham treatment (eye drops without any medication in them).

Live Longer - Eat Your Veggies Print E-mail

We know that fruits and vegetables contribute to eye health.  Many of us are trying to get at least 5 servings a day to hold off vision loss.  Past research indicates that people who eat more vegetables lower their risk of macular degeneration.

Here's another reason to load up on those antioxidants. A large study in Sweden showed that eating five servings a day of fruits and vegetables increases lifespan by nearly three years.  

Think Clearly - Eat Your Veggies Print E-mail

People with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are encouraged to eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables, especially dark green leafy vegetables.  Long term studies have shown that those who do eat their antioxidants have a lower risk of developing AMD.

Now there is research showing that veggies can maintain your mental capacity for longer.

Patient Advisory for Stem Cell Therapy Print E-mail

Stem cell therapy for AMD is being watched by patients and physicians alike. The early clinical trial data is encouraging and hopeful, but we're a long way from anything available to the average patient.  Because research is frustratingly slow and patients who are losing sight can become desperate, individuals may be tempted to go outside their home country for unproven treatments.

Stem cell therapy for AMD is not ready outside of clinical trials.  Yet there are countries where you can obtain it now.  A consortium of leading organization working on stem cell treatments has issued an advisory to those considering such travel.  Their announcement is provided below.

AMD Drug Shrinks Dry AMD Print E-mail

The MAHALO clinical trial of "lampalizumab" showed some exciting progress for dry macular degeneration.  The advanced form of dry AMD is called geographic atrophy (GA), in which a whole patch of cells degenerate and stop working.  The larger the patch, the worse the vision - and the patch tends to get bigger as things progress.  This new drug was shown to reduce the size of the GA by 20% after 18 months.  In a certain subgroup of patients, the rate of progression was decreased by 44% in that same time.  

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