A groundbreaking study has identified the first new treatment for people with diabetic eye disease in the last 25 years. The results show it not only stops the progress of eye disease, but improves vision – a huge improvement over any other treatment now available.
The study, a Phase II clinical trial, showed that the drug Lucentis, when combined with the current standard treatment of laser therapy, not only slows the progression of diabetic eye disease but can actually improve vision. The breakthrough is the result of JDRF research investments over many years in partnership with Johns Hopkins and Genentech, which licenses Lucentis.
“JDRF is encouraged by these results,” said Barbara Araneo, Ph.D., JDRF’s Director of Complications Therapies. “For the first time, a study has provided definitive proof that a combination of treatment and follow-up strategy can improve vision (for up to two years) in people with diabetic eye disease. The vision improvement seen in this study could enable someone to read the newspaper or drive a car and enhance overall quality of life for people with diabetes.”
The two-year study, which included people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, compared the effectiveness of Lucentis plus laser therapy to either laser therapy alone or a steroid drug plus laser therapy. The people enrolled in the trial had diabetic macular edema (DME), a major complication of diabetes that can result in vision loss.
The researchers found that Lucentis – an antibody that blocks the leakage of fluid from the blood vessels in the eye – combined with the laser treatment improved vision significantly, compared with laser treatment alone. The steroid plus laser treatment showed an improvement in vision at six months, and declined thereafter.
“The results appear to apply to most people who have DME, regardless of whether the person has type 1 or type 2 diabetes, is old or young, or is a woman or a man,” said Dr. Neil M. Bressler, M.D., of the Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network (DRCR.net), which conducted the study in conjunction with the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health. JDRF partners with the DRCR.net in support of clinical research on diabetic retinopathy.