Tumor necrosis factor antagonists: preliminary evidence for an emerging approach in the treatment of ocular inflammation

Retina. Apr-May 2007;27(4):399-413. doi: 10.1097/MAJ.0b013e3180318fbc.


The anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF) monoclonal antibody infliximab and the soluble TNF receptor etanercept inhibit the pleiotropic actions of TNF and are widely used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), spondyloarthropathies (SpA), Crohn's disease, and psoriasis with an acceptable safety profile. A pathogenetic role of TNF in ocular inflammatory conditions has recently emerged from small trials reporting preliminary results on the efficacy of these agents in patients with noninfectious uveitis, regardless of the origin of the disease. The authors review the published experience, derived mostly from investigator-sponsored trials and uncontrolled case series, on the use of TNF antagonists in approximately 280 patients with various ocular conditions who were inadequately controlled on currently available therapy. These reports suggest that TNF antagonists, mainly infliximab, which may have better efficacy than etanercept, are useful in the treatment of ocular inflammation associated with Adamantiades-Behçet's disease, RA, JIA, SpA, Crohn's, sarcoidosis, and Graves' disease ophthalmopathy. Infliximab was also beneficial in small numbers of patients with idiopathic uveitis or scleritis, birdshot retinochoroiditis, uveitic and diabetic cystoid macular edema, and age-related macular degeneration. The currently available data are nonrandomized and thus preliminary, providing the foundation and justification for randomized trials to assess efficacy and safety. Until such results are available, knowledge regarding the use of anti-TNF regimens in ophthalmology is incomplete. However, the preliminary evidence points to a growing optimism for targeting TNF in patients with ocular inflammation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Etanercept
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / therapeutic use
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Infliximab
  • Macular Edema / drug therapy*
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor / therapeutic use
  • Retinitis / drug therapy*
  • Scleritis / drug therapy*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Uveitis, Posterior / drug therapy*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Infliximab
  • Etanercept