April 28, 2010 -- Federal researchers say a new treatment can reverse vision
loss in many patients with diabetic macular edema, a leading cause of blindness
in people with diabetes.
In a news conference yesterday, researchers announced findings from a
government study comparing treatments for swelling of the retina caused by
leaking blood vessels in the eye.
Nearly 50% of patients given eye injections of the drug Lucentis along with
laser treatments showed improvement in vision after a year of treatment,
compared to just over a fourth of patients treated with laser alone.
For several decades, laser has been the standard treatment for diabetic
macular edema, or DME, in which fluid builds up near the center of the
“For the first time in 25 years we have definitive proof that a new
treatment can lead to better results for the eye health of people with
diabetes,” said Neil M. Bressler, MD, who oversaw the study as chairman of the
Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network.
Lucentis is a genetically engineered drug derived from the cancer drug
Avastin, which was the first targeted biologic treatment approved by the
The newer biologic was approved in June 2006 for the treatment of
age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in
Bressler said the clear superiority of Lucentis with laser over laser alone
in patients with diabetic macular edema should have an immediate impact on
clinical practice, even though the biologic treatment is not approved for this
“We expect the results of this study to have a major impact on how
ophthalmologists treat macular edema in people with diabetes,” he says.
The study included 691 diabetic patients with macular edema in one or both
The patients received either standard laser treatment alone, Lucentis plus
laser treatments in different dosing schedules, or the injectable steroid drug
Trivaris with standard laser therapy.
Lucentis injections were limited to once a month, but most patients ended up
having no more than eight or nine injections over the course of a year.
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