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Clinical trial of world-first AMD treatment successful

CERA researchers have released the 12-month clinical trial results of a new laser treatment for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). image-tools (11)

AMD is the leading cause of blindness in the developed world, responsible for 48 per cent of vision loss in Australia.

“Unlike existing treatments for AMD, which target the late stages of the disease, the nano-second laser is designed to intervene early, before significant damage occurs,” said the study’s principal investigator, Professor Robyn Guymer (pictured right).

“If successful it will be the first time AMD can be treated before a patient has suffered irreversible vision loss,” she said.

The laser treatment involves an Australian designed device that delivers a nanosecond dose of laser energy into the eye. In applying the laser, researchers aim to restore a healthier retina in patients with early AMD.

The interim 12-month results from the trial of 24 high-risk patients with early AMD have shown that the laser can improve the function of a patient’s retina.

“After 12 months, around two-thirds of patients experienced sustained improvement in their visual function in the treated eye, with the majority of patients experiencing an improvement in their untreated eye too,” said Professor Guymer.

“The patient’s visual function typically improved in the area of the eye that had the most damage. It’s this damage that typically leads to complications of AMD and subsequently, severe vision loss,” she said.

“In addition, the treatment appears to be safe, with research showing no evidence of laser damage to photoreceptor cells.”

“The results are promising. It’s the first time an improvement in retinal function has been shown.”

A total of 50 patients are enrolled in the trial, with completion of the 12-month follow-up targeted for the end of December 2011. Preparations for a long-term, multi-centre randomised control trial are currently underway to demonstrate the ability of the laser treatment to prevent late-stage AMD.

The Ellex 2RT device is being trialled by CERA researchers at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. The trial is funded by the Victorian Government.