New drug treatment for ROP?

Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) is an abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eye. It occurs in babies born before 32 weeks of pregnancy. ROP can lead to bleeding and scarring that can damage the eye’s retina (the lining at the rear of the eye that relays messages to the brain). This can result in vision loss.

An ophthalmologist (eye doctor) will examine the baby’s eyes for signs of ROP. Most mild cases heal without treatment, with little or no vision loss. In more severe cases, however, the ophthalmologist may perform laser therapy or do a procedure called cryotherapy (freezing) to eliminate abnormal blood vessels and scars. Both treatments help protect the retina, but can have complications or side effects.

Some babies with ROP may soon have an alternative to laser or cryosurgery, according to an article published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.  A drug, bevacizumab (also called Avastin), used against some cancers because it inhibits vessel growth, was tested in infants with ROP.

In the study, 143 babies with ROP received either laser surgery or were administered bevacizumab. Of these infants, 64 had ROP centered around the optic nerve (Zone 1), and 79 had abnormal vessel growth outside that area. In the Zone 1 group, the babies benefitted much more from bevacizumab than they did  from laser surgery, as evidenced in the ROP recurrence rate several months later.  (The Zone 1 group had two out of 31 recurrences, while the laser surgery had 14 out of 33 babies showing a recurrence.) The 79 infants with ROP outside of Zone 1, however, showed no significant difference in outcome from either therapy.

This is an exciting and promising study, but it is still too soon to know the long-term effects of this drug. What are the risks compared to the benefits? Follow-up research and confirmation of results is needed before this can become widely available, but this study does provide hope for treating one of the more disabling results of early premature birth.

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4 Responses to “New drug treatment for ROP?”

  1. Nikki Puckett Says:

    My daughter was born at 24 weeks, she was diagnosed with a severe case of ROP. We were given the option of Laser treatment and the Avastin treatment. We were given the impression that the drug was very safe and effective. We did the treatment when our daughter was around 32 weeks. It was great at first….no signs of ROP…it was a miracle!! About one month later, the ROP had started to come back, and our daughter did a 180 degree turnaround! She was born with chronic lung disease due to her severve prematurity. After her Avastin treatmeant her CLD progressed and she passed away one month later. Her doctors were dumb founded….”they had not seen a case like hers in 20 years” Those words came right from the head of Neonatiology at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore. What’s even crazier is that, in the same summer our daughter passed away, the unit lost two other babies, that were chronic lung disease babies that also had the Avastin treatment. Sinai NICU is no longer using the Avastin treatment…they don’t know enough about this drug and the side effects. I truly feel that Avastin was one of the many factors that my daughter lost her struggle. Do not use this drug, there is not enought research!! If i could do it all over again, I would have made a different choice!!

  2. Lindsay Says:

    Nikki – I’m so very sorry to hear about the loss of your sweet little girl. It must have been devastating.
    The experience of losing not only your daughter but three babies that summer illustrates the serious need for further studies to identify risks vs benefits and long-term effects of drug treatment.
    Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  3. MD.MAZHARU ANWAR Says:

    Without eye life is nothing.

    My 14 months baby blind (ROP 5 in both eyes) due severe gross negligencies of our Bangladeshi Doctors and LABAID Hospital. They totaly ignored regarding eye while she was a premature baby and supplimented high level of Oxygen.

  4. Lindsay Says:

    I’m so sorry to hear that your daughter is blind. No one ever wants that for their child. Sometimes the treatments to help keep babies alive can and do cause other problems, such as ROP. Even weighing all the pros and cons, it must be very difficult to decide how aggressively to treat a critically ill infant.
    Thank you for sharing your experience.

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