First patient in the UK takes part in global clinical trial to prevent blindness

St Paul’s Eye Unit at the Royal Liverpool Hospital has recruited the first patient in the UK to take part in a global clinical trial to test a new treatment for dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is a leading cause of blindness.

There are two types of AMD, wet and dry. Wet AMD is when blood vessels grow and leak fluid into the macula, the part of the retina which is responsible for central vision, and dry AMD is caused by a thinning of the macula. Over recent years, there has been revolutionary new treatment for wet AMD, but there is no treatment or cure for dry AMD. The advanced form of dry AMD, known as geographic atrophy, affects 5 million people around the world and causes patients to lose their central vision, making reading, driving and even recognising people’s faces impossible.

Major trials in the world looking to stop the progression of the debilitating disease. The OAKS trial by Apellis Pharmaceuticals is testing a new drug for patients with geographic atrophy, which is injected into the eye every month to slow down the symptoms. This global, phase three trial which started in the UK December 2019, is treating around 600 patients around the world, including patients in America, Europe, Australia and now the UK. If successful, the new drug will be regulated and save the sight of millions of people around the world.

The UK patient has suffered with dry AMD for almost four years and is registered with sight loss. She was recruited through the Clinical Eye Research Centre in St Paul’s Eye Unit, a research unit that brings scientists and clinicians from a wide range of disciplines together to work on preventing and treating sight loss through pioneering research.

The patient said: “My sight has really deteriorated over the past 12 months, so when I was asked to take part in the trial, I thought why not, I’ve got nothing to lose. I was a bit apprehensive to have injections in my eyes, but I can’t really feel them because of the numbing eye drops. I’m really hopeful about the trial, I’d be so grateful if the remaining sight I have could be saved.

“The team at St Paul’s have been brilliant, I’ve got nothing but praise for them. They work so hard on top of their day job, putting so much time into research that will help people in the future keep their sight for as long as possible.”

Professor Ian Pearce, Consultant Ophthalmologist, Director of Clinical Eye Research Centre in St Paul’s Eye Unit and UK Chief Investigator on the OAKS trial, said: “There is a significant need to develop treatments for dry AMD, and this study is the final hurdle to be able to roll out the first, world-wide, licenced treatment.

“It’s a real triumph for us to be able to give a patient access to this cutting-edge treatment trial. I’m really proud that we’re able to offer the latest technology and treatment advancements for people with sight threatening diseases in our local area. We’re giving the people of Liverpool access to the same new treatment as those who live in Sydney or New York. It’s a privilege to be able to offer this, and we’ve been able to do this because we’ve been leading the introduction and trials of new treatments for the past two decades.”