Developing a Statin Treatment for High-Risk Macular Degeneration

Developing a Statin Treatment for High-Risk Macular Degeneration


The lives of patients, researchers and philanthropists
are inexorably tied together, and this connection keeps propelling Mass. Eye and Ear towards bold scientific discoveries
and life changing cures. It starts with patients like Ines Yeatts concerned
about suffering vision loss from wet macular degeneration, the advanced version of the
dry form. The desperate need for an answer spurred Dr.
Joan Miller and colleagues to develop an innovative therapy—a breakthrough that has saved the
sight of millions. A group of us here and across the Harvard
Department of Opthalmology really were the ones that determined that this one growth
factor VEG-F, or V-E-G-F, was the driver for the abnormal blood vessels in wet macular
degeneration, and this led to the treatments which we now use. Before there was nothing that could be done
for macular degeneration, and she developed this medicine. And I am so lucky to be here and to be able to go to Mass. Eye and Ear. Ines receives her injections from Dr. Demetrios Vavvas. Before these statins were available, pretty
much all patients would lose sight within two years and become legally blind. At the same time, Dr. Vavvas is studying what
could be a game changer in the treatment and cure of dry macular degeneration, which could
prevent patients from ever reaching the more dangerous wet form. These lipid deposits in the heart can be helped when they’re given high dose statins like Lipitor. At the same time, we knew that there’s a lot
of lipid accumulation in macular degeneration. Dr. Demetrios Vavvas, who’s one of our most
creative thinkers, said well, you know, that’s sort of like outer retina. Why don’t we try the high dose statins for
macular degeneration? We started a small trial, and in that study
we showed, out of about 23 patients, that more than half of them really showed dramatic improvement
in the deposits of drusen. Up to now, indeed, there has been no cure
for dry macular degeneration. This is an approved drug that millions of patients have taken with a very good safety record. Patients like Ed Brown know first hand what
this discovery means to them. When I came to Mass. Eye and Ear, I was really afraid that I would
lose my eyesight, and after several months of taking Lipitor under Dr. Vavvas’ care,
I felt like there was a miracle because my vision actually improved. Now, Dr. Vavvas needs to conduct a larger
trial to confirm the results of the first. About 150 million people in the world are
affected by macular degeneration. So with this therapy, even if we can help
only let’s say 15% of the patients, that amounts to tens of millions of patients that
could be helped. These trials are expensive, and philanthropy is vital. Ines and her husband, Fred Yeatts, have been
very generous supporters of AMD research and supported the first trial. We realize it takes a long, long time to have
any output or have any discernible value for individuals, but we know that they’re going to get there. They are the engine behind what we’re doing,
and that without them pretty much nothing of importance would have happened. Ines and Fred Yeatts have been tremendous supporters of the institution, both on the eye side and the hearing side, and they really make it possible for us to do the transformational research that we think is so important. She’s a hero to me! She’s wonderful! As time goes by, each of these people will
continue to play their role helping to transform possibility into reality.

1 Comment

  • Alan Diehl says:

    Congratulations, to these very dedicated and brilliant practitioners. What great story! Hopefully, this procedure will expeditiously be tested and approved by the FDA. My wife is currently suffering from both wet and dry AMD. While Eylea injections have helped arrest her wet form, we're obviously looking for a "cure" for the dry form. Is there anybody currently using these Statins to control/reverse dry AMD in the Albuquerque Area? Thank you, Respectfully. Alan Diehl, PhD

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