Background: Angiogenesis is a key aspect of the wet form of age-related neovascular (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in the elderly population. Substantial evidence indicated that vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-A is a major mediator of angiogenesis and vascular leakage in wet AMD. VEGF-A is the prototype member of a gene family that includes also PlGF, VEGF-B, VEGF-C, VEGF-D and the orf virus-encoded VEGF-E. Several isoforms of VEGF-A can be generated due to alternative mRNA splicing. Various VEGF inhibitors have been clinically developed. Among these, ranibizumab is a high affinity recombinant Fab that neutralizes all isoforms of VEGF-A. The article briefly reviews the biology of VEGF and then focuses on the path that led to clinical development of ranibizumab.
Results: The safety and efficacy of ranibizumab in the treatment of neovascular AMD have been evaluated in two large phase III, multicenter, randomized, double-masked, controlled pivotal trials in different neovascular AMD patient populations. Combined, the trial results indicate that ranibizumab results not only in a slowing down of vision loss but also in a significant proportion of patients experiencing a clinically meaningful vision gain. The visual acuity benefit over control was observed regardless of CNV lesion type. Furthermore, the benefit was associated with a low rate of serious adverse events.
Conclusions: Ranibizumab represents a novel therapy that, for the first time, appears to have the potential to enable many AMD patients to obtain a meaningful and sustained gain of vision. On June 30 2006, ranibizumab was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of wet AMD.