Intraocular injections of VEGF-neutralizing proteins provide tremendous benefits in patients with choroidal neovascularization (NV) due to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), but during treatment some patients develop retinal atrophy. Suggesting that VEGF is a survival factor for retinal neurons, a clinical trial group attributed retinal atrophy to VEGF suppression and cautioned against frequent anti-VEGF injections. This recommendation may contribute to poor outcomes in clinical practice from insufficient treatment. Patients with type 3 choroidal NV have particularly high risk of retinal atrophy, an unexplained observation. Herein we show in mouse models that VEGF signaling does not contribute to photoreceptor survival and functioning: (a) neutralization of VEGFR2 strongly suppresses choroidal NV without compromising photoreceptor function or survival; (b) VEGF does not slow loss of photoreceptor function or death in mice with inherited retinal degeneration, and there is no exacerbation by VEGF suppression; and (c) mice with type 3 choroidal NV develop retinal atrophy due to oxidative damage with no contribution from VEGF suppression. Intraocular injections of VEGF-neutralizing proteins, a highly effective treatment in patients with neovascular AMD, should not be withheld or reduced due to concern that they may contribute to long-term visual loss from retinal atrophy.
Da Long, Yogita Kanan, Jikui Shen, Sean F. Hackett, Yuanyuan Liu, Zibran Hafiz, Mahmood Khan, Lili Lu, Peter A. Campochiaro
Inhibition of VEGFR2 suppresses choroidal neovascularization (NV) without photoreceptor damage.