Heart drug tackles eye disease

Pills in packets

Researchers in Southampton are leading groundbreaking work into using a heart failure drug to save the sight of patients with a currently untreatable eye condition. 

Central serous chorio-retinopathy (CSCR) sees fluid gather under the light-sensing retina, damaging it. A type of macular degeneration, it mainly affects those in their thirties and forties and there is no known treatment.

10 new cases per 100,000 men and two per 100,000 women in the UK are diagnosed each year. Although some cases resolve spontaneously, around a third of patients suffer permanent vision loss, and the condition can persist for years, recur or affect the second eye.

Now, Professor Andrew Lotery, a consultant ophthalmologist at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, is leading the first study into the long-term benefit and safety of the heart drug eplerenone for the disease.

Preventing sight loss

The £1 million project will involve 104 patients across 20 sites in the UK with participants receiving either eplerenone or an identical placebo tablet for up to 12 months.

“This is a really important study. Many patients suffer permanent vision loss as a result of this condition, we don’t yet know the cause  and there are no proven treatments for it,” explained Prof Lotery, who is also a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Southampton and research director of charity the Gift of Sight Appeal.

“Recently a small number of patients have responded to treatment with eplerenone and that is exciting, but the long-term benefit and safety is unclear, so we hope this landmark trial will establish the first scientifically proven therapy for CSCR.”

Studying the role of genetics

Although the cause of the condition is unknown, it can occur in families and some genetic changes have been linked with it. “As part of our research we will also collect blood samples to be studied for patterns in patients’ DNA, and their blood chemistry that might be linked with the condition.

“Once we’ve ensured the safety of the drug and how well it works, , we will look for genetic patterns more common in CSCR patients and which proteins or genetic variations help predict who responds best to treatment with eplerenone.”

This project is funded by the Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation (EME) Programme, an MRC and NIHR partnership. Early-stage research was funded and supported by the Gift of Sight Appeal.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the study can contact the research team on 023 8120 5266 or by email at vici-trial@bristol.ac.uk.

Posted on Monday 24 April 2017