Purpose: To evaluate the long-term safety and visual acuity outcomes associated with epimacular strontium 90 brachytherapy combined with intravitreal bevacizumab for the treatment of subfoveal choroidal neovascularization because of age-related macular degeneration.
Methods: Thirty-four treatment-naive patients with predominantly classic, minimally classic, and occult subfoveal choroidal neovascularization lesions participated in this prospective, 2-year, nonrandomized multicenter study. Subjects from 1 center (n = 19) were reconsented and followed-up for 3 years. Each subject received a single 24-Gy beta irradiation treatment via an intraocular delivery device and 2 planned injections of bevacizumab at treatment and 1 month later. Additional bevacizumab therapy was permitted based on prespecified retreatment criteria. Adverse events were observed, and best-corrected visual acuity was measured using Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study vision charts. Subjects were evaluated every 3 months during the first year of follow-up and every 6 months during Years 2 and 3 of follow-up.
Results: All 34 subjects were followed-up for 24 months and 19 were followed-up through 36 months. With up to 24 months of follow-up, 12 of 24 phakic patients (50%) exhibited ≥ 2 grades of progression in Lens Opacification Classification System (LOCS) II lens classification; 5 eyes underwent cataract extraction before the Month 36 visit. There was 1 case of nonproliferative retinopathy identified at 36 months of follow-up that did not have an adverse effect on visual acuity, was stable at 43 months of follow-up, and was isolated to the parafoveal region. Mean best-corrected visual acuity demonstrated an average gain of +15.0 and -4.9 letters at 12 months and 24 months, respectively; the drop in mean gain at Month 24 was largely attributable to cataract formation. At 36 months (n = 19), the mean best-corrected visual acuity was +3.9, 90% (17 of 19) of eyes had lost <15 letters from baseline, 53% (10 of 19) had gained ≥ 1 letter, and 21% (4 of 19) had gained ≥ 15 letters. Through 36 months, 11 eyes required additional bevacizumab retreatment therapy and received a mean of 3.0 injections (range, 2-7 injections).
Conclusion: Epimacular brachytherapy shows promise as a therapeutic option for subfoveal neovascular age-related macular degeneration. The procedure was safe and well tolerated, with a reasonable risk-benefit profile that warrants further study in larger subject populations. The most common adverse event was cataract progression/formation. Surgical complications are similar to those expected from standard vitrectomy trials. This novel device is currently being evaluated in two prospective, randomized, controlled trials in treatment-naive subjects (CABERNET) and in subjects already treated with anti-vascular endothelial growth factor therapy (MERLOT).