Using retinal blood vessels to identify or improve AMD

Vancouver, BC
— The retina is one of the most metabolically active tissues in the entire body, consuming high levels of oxygen and nutrients, so the blood vessels that support the retina must be healthy and robust. Two studies presented this week at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) 2019 Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada will discuss abnormalities in the blood vessels of the retina in relation to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness worldwide. Both trials aim to improve patient care by determining whether changes to the blood vessels can serve as biomarkers about existence or worsening of AMD or by finding a new way to encourage healthy growth of blood vessels as a way to improve symptoms and lessen the severity of AMD.

Blood vessels in retina may be a sign of AMD, according to new research reduced quantity, thickness of blood vessels in the inner retina as biomarkers for AMD

Researchers in New South Whales have found that certain conditions in blood vessels within the retina may be a sigh of AMD, a finding that could lead to earlier treatment for the disease, which affects XXX million people around the world. It has long been known that AMD involves changes to the blood supply of the outer portion of the retina. Researchers, led by Lisa Nivison-Smith, Bsc, PhD, of the Centre for Eye Health and the School of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of New South Wales, used optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) scanning, a new noninvasive technology, to determine whether similar changes occur within the inner portion of the retina in eyes with intermediate AMD. OCTA scans of the inner retinas of 51 normal eyes and 63 eyes with intermediate AMD showed a decreased number of blood vessels in the inner retina, as well as a thinning of the remaining blood vessels in that area, of eyes with AMD.

“Currently, we only have treatments for macular degeneration in its advanced stages, and this is problematic because these stages are the most sight-threatening,” said Nivison-Smith. “The findings from this study can lead to successful treatments for earlier stages of the disease with less chance of vision loss.”

Abstract title: Quantity and morphology of inner retinal vasculature is reduced in intermediate age-related macular degeneration
Presentation start/end time: Tuesday, April 30, 11:45am - 1:30pm
Location: West Exhibition Hall
Abstract number: 3443 - A0286

New drug shows promising results in neovascular AMD

The typical treatment for neovascular (or “wet”) AMD is frequent (monthly/bimonthly) injections of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) drugs into the eye. Faricimab is the first bispecific antibody—meaning that it targets two substances in the body that disrupt the stability of existing blood vessels and promote growth of new, abnormal vessels—for intraocular use.

A total of 76 patients aged 50 years and older with neovascular AMD were enrolled in the phase II STAIRWAY trial. Patients receive 6 mg of faricimab every 16 weeks following 4 loading doses, 6 mg of faricimab every 12 weeks following 4 loading doses, or to 0.5 mg of the standard of care (ranibizumab, an anti-VEGF agent) every 4 weeks. The primary purpose of the study was to determine how well faricimab works at 16 weeks and at 12 weeks, as determined by best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA) using the Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study letter score. In the study, 65% of farcimab treated patients could potentially maintain q16 week dosing with a comparable visual and anatomical outcome as q4 week ranibizumb. Furthermore, faricimab was deemed safe, with no new or unexpected side effects.

According to the lead study author, Carl Danzig, MD, of the Rand Eye Institute, use of faricimab brings a new therapeutic approach to neovascular AMD. “The phase II results of STAIRWAY suggest that faricimab may have longer-lasting results compared with existing therapies and could reduce the frequency of treatment for neovascular AMD,” said Danzig.

Phase III clinical trials, which are currently enrolling, will examine faricimab efficacy and safety in a larger trial population.

Abstract title: Efficacy and safety of faricimab every 16 or 12 weeks for neovascular age-related macular degeneration: STAIRWAY phase 2 results

Presentation start/end time: Sunday, April 28, 3 – 4:45pm
Location: West Exhibition Hall
Abstract number: 1212 - A0226


The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) is the largest eye and vision research organization in the world. Members include nearly 12,000 eye and vision researchers from over 75 countries. ARVO advances research worldwide into understanding the visual system and preventing, treating and curing its disorders. Learn more at
The 2019 ARVO Annual Meeting will take place in Vancouver, BC from April 28 – May 2. The Meeting is the premiere gathering of nearly 12,000 eye and vision researchers from around the world. During the Meeting, more than 6,600 abstracts will be presented on the latest basic and translational research in eye and vision science.

All abstracts accepted for presentation at the ARVO Annual Meeting represent previously unpublished data and conclusions. This research may be proprietary or may have been submitted for journal publication. Embargo policy: Journalists must seek approval from the presenter(s) before reporting data from paper or poster presentations. Press releases or stories on information presented at the ARVO Annual Meeting may not be released or published until the conclusion of the presentation.

Media contact:
Julene Joy