Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) plays an important role in both physiologic and pathologic angiogenesis and contributes to increased permeability across both the blood-retinal and blood-brain barriers. After 2 decades of extensive research into the VEGF families and receptors, specific molecules have been targeted for drug development, and several medications have received US Food and Drug Administration approval. Bevacizumab, a full-length antibody against VEGF approved for the intravenous treatment of advanced carcinomas, has been used extensively in ophthalmology for exudative age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, retinal vein occlusions, retinopathy of prematurity, and other chorioretinal vascular disorders. Pegaptanib and ranibizumab have been developed specifically for intraocular use, whereas the soon-to-be-introduced aflibercept (VEGF Trap-Eye) is moving through clinical trials for both intraocular and systemic use. Although these drugs exhibit excellent safety profiles, ocular and systemic complications, particularly thromboembolic events, remain a concern in patients receiving therapy. Patients experiencing adverse events that may be related to VEGF suppression should be carefully evaluated by both the ophthalmologist and the medical physician to reassess the need for intraocular therapy and explore the feasibility of changing medications. For this review a search of PubMed from January 1, 1985 through April 15, 2011, was performed using the following terms (or combination of terms): vascular endothelial growth factors, VEGF, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, retina vein occlusions, retinopathy of prematurity, intravitreal injections, bevacizumab, ranibizumab, and VEGF Trap. Studies were limited to those published in English. Other articles were identified from bibliographies of retrieved articles and archives of the author.
Copyright © 2012 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.