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    Failed cell therapy study offers positives, raises new questions

    Patients with a history of frequent anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) injections for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) may not be the best potential candidates for encapsulated cell technology (ECT).

    ECT contains human cell lines that are capable of producing a variety of proteins. After a single surgical implantation, they can produce proteins for up to two years or more, according to Szilard Kiss, MD, assistant professor of ophthalmology; director of clinical research at Weill Cornell Medical College, New York.

    “These cell lines survive even after being inside the human eye for six months,” Dr. Kiss said.

    A phase II study was initiated to compare the third generation of ECT (Neurotech, Cumberland, RI) to aflibercept (Eylea, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals). The study planned to enroll 90 subjects, with a primary outcome of non-inferiority to aflibercept alone after 108 weeks. Among the patient entry criteria, all patients had to have shown a response to aflibercept before randomization.

    The patient profile was similar to other anti-VEGF treatment studies, with a best corrected visual acuity (BCVA) between 80 letters (20/25) and 35 letters (20/200) at baseline; limited pathology (such as fibrosis, scarring, or atrophy); good optical coherence tomography (OCT) response to injections; and having gone through at least three previous injections, with the last injection no more than four months before study enrollment.

    “The goal was to have fewer than 20% of patients needing a rescue injection during the follow-up period,” Dr. Kiss said.

    Study particulars

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