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NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Very Low-Dose Avastin Effective for Preventing Blindness in Preterm Infants

Babies born prematurely who require treatment to prevent blindness from retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) could be treated with a dose of Avastin (bevacizumab) that is a fraction of the dose commonly used for ROP currently. Results from the dose-finding study were published Apr. 23 in JAMA Ophthalmology. The study was conducted by the Pediatric Eye Disease Investigator Group and supported by NEI.

Preterm babies are at high risk of abnormal blood vessel growth in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. These abnormal blood vessels are fragile and prone to leaking. If left untreated, vessel growth can lead to scarring and retinal detachment, the main cause of ROP-related vision loss. ROP is one of the leading causes of blindness in children.

Established ROP treatments include laser therapy and cryotherapy. Both interventions work by causing the abnormal blood vessels to stop growing before they can cause scarring and retinal detachment.   

Avastin is one of several available drugs that inhibit abnormal blood vessel growth by suppressing the overproduction of a signal protein called vascular endothelial growth factor.

The FDA approved Avastin in 2004 as a cancer therapy. Since then, ophthalmologists have used it off-label to inhibit abnormal blood vessel growth in ROP, as well as in other ocular disorders.

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