Radiation therapy for neovascular age-related macular degeneration

Clin Ophthalmol. 2011 Jan 10;5:57-63. doi: 10.2147/OPTH.S16444.


Antivascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) therapies represent the standard of care for most patients presenting with neovascular (wet) age-related macular degeneration (neovascular AMD). Anti-VEGF drugs require repeated injections and impose a considerable burden of care, and not all patients respond. Radiation targets the proliferating cells that cause neovascular AMD, including fibroblastic, inflammatory, and endothelial cells. Two new neovascular AMD radiation treatments are being investigated: epimacular brachytherapy and stereotactic radiosurgery. Epimacular brachytherapy uses beta radiation, delivered to the lesion via a pars plana vitrectomy. Stereotactic radiosurgery uses low voltage X-rays in overlapping beams, directed onto the lesion. Feasibility data for epimacular brachytherapy show a greatly reduced need for anti-VEGF therapy, with a mean vision gain of 8.9 ETDRS letters at 12 months. Pivotal trials are underway (MERLOT, CABERNET). Preliminary stereotactic radiosurgery data suggest a mean vision gain of 8 to 10 ETDRS letters at 12 months. A large randomized sham controlled stereotactic radiosurgery feasibility study is underway (CLH002), with pivotal trials to follow. While it is too early to conclude on the safety and efficacy of epimacular brachytherapy and stereotactic radiosurgery, preliminary results are positive, and these suggest that radiation offers a more durable therapeutic effect than intraocular injections.

Keywords: anti-VEGF; epimacular brachytherapy; neovascular; radiation therapy; stereotactic radiosurgery; wet age-related macular degeneration.