, Volume 51, Issue 9, pp 1574-1580
Date: 11 Apr 2008

Intravitreous anti-VEGF for diabetic retinopathy: hopes and fears for a new therapeutic strategy

Abstract

Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) plays a key role in the development of both proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) and diabetic macular oedema (DMO). In recent years, anti-VEGF agents have emerged as new approaches to the treatment of these devastating diabetic complications. Although Phase III studies in the diabetic population are needed, intravitreal anti-VEGF therapy is currently being used in clinical practice. Intravitreal injection is an effective means of delivering anti-VEGF drugs to the retina. However, this is an invasive procedure associated with potentially serious complications, such as endophthalmitis or retinal detachment, which may be significant for patients requiring serial treatment over many years. In addition, although delivered within the vitreous, anti-VEGF drugs could pass into the systemic circulation, which could potentially result in hypertension, proteinuria, increased cardiovascular events and impaired wound healing. Pegaptanib, ranibizumab and bevacizumab are the currently available anti-VEGF agents. Ranibizumab and bevacizumab block all VEGF isoforms, thus impairing both physiological and pathological neovascularisation. Pegaptanib only blocks the VEGF165 isoform, and would therefore seem the best option for avoiding systemic adverse effects in diabetic patients, although this remains to be demonstrated in clinical trials. In this regard, head-to-head studies designed to evaluate not only the efficacy, but also the systemic adverse effects of these drugs in a high-risk population such as diabetic patients are warranted.