Trials of new eye drops for diabetic eye disease underway

by Barbara Hewitt on February 13, 2013

Trials of new eye drops for diabetic eye disease underway

Moorfields Eye Hospital in London is to participate in a clinical trial to evaluate a new therapeutic treatment using eye drops to treat the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. It will be one of 11 centres across Europe participating in the trial under the umbrella of EUROCONDOR, the European Consortium on the early treatment of diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease that occurs in people with diabetes. It involves changes in the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina at the back of the eye which can ultimately lead to severe loss of vision or even blindness. Today, diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of preventable blindness among working age individuals in developed countries.

The trial will evaluate the safety and effectiveness of a new therapeutic eye drop treatment based on two neuroprotective drugs: somatostatin (a peptide hormone) and brimonidine (a drug currently used to treat glaucoma). ‘Small blood vessel damage has been the primary focus of investigation and therapy in this disorder for some time, but there has been a longstanding interest in the neurodegenerative aspects of Diabetic Retinopathy and whether you can modify this. That is what this project aims to address in a large international study,’ said consultant ophthalmologist Cathy Egan who is leading the trial.

Quote from the : “I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes last March. I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant in 2007 and it went away but now it’s back. I’m on Metformin (2000mg/day). I have watery eyes and blurry vision (mainly on my left eye). My Opthalmologist said my everything looks normal. Does anyone else experience this symptom? Thanks.”

‘We are intending to recruit 41 patients for the trial and to start the screening at the end of February. The trial is an important step in the development of a new, non invasive treatment for this devastating complication of diabetes, given early in the disease,’ she added. ‘We also hope that the findings of this research will pave the way for new screening systems that will allow us to diagnose diabetic retinopathy at earlier stages, which in turn would allow us to provide better care for our patients,’ she explained.

There is growing evidence to suggest that retinal neurodegeneration plays an important role in the onset of diabetic retinopathy. With this in mind, EUROCONDOR will conduct a controlled phase II and III clinical trial to assess whether therapeutic strategies based on neuroprotection are effective not only in preventing or arresting retinal neurodegeneration but also in preventing the development and progression of the early stages of diabetic retinopathy.

‘Until recently, the use of eye drops has not been considered an appropriate route for the administration of drugs in the early treatment of this complication because of the general assumption that they do not reach the retina,’ said Dr Rafael Simó, director of the diabetes research and metabolism unit at VHIR (Hospital Universitari de la Vall d’Hebrón – Institut de Recerca) and coordinator of the EUROCONDOR project. ‘However, recent studies show that many drugs are able to reach the retina in effective concentrations,’ he added.

These findings mean that neuroprotective drugs administered through eye drops have the potential to open up a new strategy to treat the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. Researchers believe that positive outcomes for the EUROCONDOR project could have a considerable impact on prevention, placing neurodegeneration as a new target for early detection of diabetic retinopathy in people with diabetes.

EUROCONDOR is a collaborative project funded by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme. The project is coordinated by the Fundació Hospital Universitari Vall d’Hebrón – Institut de Recerca (VHIR). The EUROCONDOR consortium includes 17 partners across Europe, of which 11 clinical centres will recruit patients to carry out the trial.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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