Purpose: Placental growth factor (PlGF) has been implicated as a contributor to resistance against anti-VEGF therapy. The purpose of the present study was to analyze the systemic levels of PlGF, VEGF-A, and VEGF-B in patients with neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD) after treatment with aflibercept, ranibizumab, or bevacizumab.
Methods: Totals of 19 patients were treated with intravitreal aflibercept, 19 with ranibizumab, and 18 with bevacizumab. The cytokine levels were measured by ELISA just before the injection, and 7 days and 1 month thereafter. Age- and sex-matched participants (n = 22) served as controls.
Results: The median PlGF plasma concentration at baseline was <12.0 pg/mL in the control group as well as in all three anti-VEGF treatment cohorts. After intravitreal aflibercept injection, a significant upregulation of systemic PlGF could be observed in all treated patients (38.0 [31.0-44.0] pg/mL after 1 week [P < 0.001] and 16.0 [0.0-19.0] pg/mL [P = 0.005] after 4 weeks). No significant effects on plasma PlGF concentrations could be detected in those treated with ranibizumab and bevacizumab. The systemic VEGF-A levels were significantly reduced 1 and 4 weeks after intravitreal aflibercept (P < 0.001, P < 0.001) and bevacizumab (P < 0.001, P < 0.01) injections. No significant effects on plasma cytokine concentrations could be observed in the ranibizumab cohort. No significant effects on systemic VEGF-B could be observed in any of the treatment groups.
Conclusions: In this study, we report a significant systemic upregulation of the proangiogenic cytokine PlGF after intravitreal administration of aflibercept. This might represent a counter-regulatory response to antiangiogenic therapy.