A cancer drug could help premature infants ward off the risk of eye disease, a paediatric ophthalmologist from Texas told the Asia Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology Congress (APAO) held in Sydney in March.
A recent study of 150 infants found that an injection of bevacizumab (Avastin) is better for managing retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) and has fewer adverse consequences than the current standard of laser treatment.
Dr. Helen Mintz-Hittner said bevacizumab treatment is an inexpensive, two-minute bedside procedure, followed by eye drops to prevent infection for a few days.
“In contrast, laser treatment requires expensive laser equipment, a laser ready operating room and intubation of the infant. The procedure takes about two hours followed by eye drops to prevent inflammation for weeks,” she said.
The critical issues with bevacizumab are appropriate timing and sterility. If used too early, bevacizumab can prevent normal development of the retina resulting in retinal dystrophy. If used too late, bevacizumab can accelerate retinal detachment
She said the rate of recurrence of ROP in bevacizumab treated infants was four per cent, compared to 22 per cent following laser treatment.
“The critical issues with bevacizumab are appropriate timing and sterility. If used too early, bevacizumab can prevent normal development of the retina resulting in retinal dystrophy. If used too late, bevacizumab can accelerate retinal detachment,” said Dr. Mintz-Hittner.
The treatment will be monitored over the next five years, while new research may focus on refining the optimal dose for treatment.
Bevacizumab is already used in eye conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.