Thalidomide inhibits corneal angiogenesis induced by vascular endothelial growth factor

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· Background: Ocular diseases caused by neovascularization are among the leading causes of blindness. No specific pharmacological treatment is available. Among potential drugs, thalidomide deserves special interest since a wide body of clinical experience exists. However, its antiangiogenic effect is controversial. We therefore investigated the effect of thalidomide on corneal angiogenesis induced by vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which has a special role among angiogenic growth factors. · Methods: Corneal neovascularization was induced in NZW rabbits by an intrastromal pellet loaded with 500 or 750 ng VEGF. Animals received two daily feedings of 200 mg/kg thalidomide. · Results: Significant inhibition of corneal angiogenesis (P<0.0001) was caused by the teratogenic dose of thalidomide after the 5th day of treatment and persisted for more than 16 days. No obvious side effects were recorded. · Conclusions: Thalidomide has a significant antiangiogenic effect against VEGF-induced neovasclar growth. Together with earlier findings this observation indicates that the drug inhibits two angiogenic pathways which are mediated through integrin adhesion molecules.

Received: 7 April 1997 Revised version received: 31 July 1997 Accepted: 18 August 1997