Most anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) therapies in diabetic macular edema are not as robust as in proliferative diabetic retinopathy. Although the VEGF appears to be a good target in diabetic macular edema, the anti-VEGF therapies appear to be of transient benefit as the edema recurs within a few weeks, and repeated injections are necessary. There is new evidence that indicates 'retinal inflammation' as an important player in the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy. There are common sets of inflammatory cytokines that are upregulated in both the serum and vitreous and aqueous samples, in subjects with diabetic retinopathy, and these cytokines can have multiple interactions to impact the pathogenesis of the disease. The key inflammatory events involved in the blood retinal barrier (BRB) alteration appear to be: (1) Increased expression of endothelial adhesion molecules such as ICAM1, VCAM1, PECAM-1, and P-selectin, (2) adhesion of leukocytes to the endothelium, (3) release of inflammatory chemokines, cytokines, and vascular permeability factors, (4) alteration of adherens and tight junctional proteins between the endothelial cells, and (5) infiltration of leukocytes into the neuro-retina, resulting in the alteration of the blood retinal barrier (diapedesis). VEGF inhibition itself may not achieve neutralization of other inflammatory molecules involved in the inflammatory cascade of the breakdown of the BRB. It is possible that the novel selective inhibitors of the inflammatory cascade (like angiopoietin-2, TNFα, and chemokines) may be useful therapeutic agents in the treatment of diabetic macular edema (DME), either alone or in combination with the anti-VEGF drugs.
Keywords: Blood-retinal barrier; Chemokines; Cytokines; Diabetic Retinopathy; Inflammation; Steroids; Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor.