Ranibizumab Safer, More Effective for Retinopathy of Prematurity, Study Finds

A new study finds ranibizumab is a safer and more effective treatment for retinopathy of prematurity in low birthweight premature babies compared to traditional laser therapy. The study, called RAINBOW, compared intravitreal ranibizumab injections to laser therapy in 201 children, with 156 followed for five years.

author-image
Bijay Laxmi
New Update
Ranibizumab Safer, More Effective for Retinopathy of Prematurity, Study Finds

Ranibizumab Safer, More Effective for Retinopathy of Prematurity, Study Finds

A new study published in eClinicalMedicine by University at Buffalo researcher James D. Reynolds, MD, has found that ranibizumab is a safer and more effective treatment for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) in low birthweight premature babies compared to traditional laser therapy. The findings could change the standard of care for this potentially blinding condition that affects premature infants.

Why this matters: This breakthrough in treating retinopathy of prematurity could significantly improve the quality of life for thousands of premature babies born each year, potentially preventing blindness and vision impairment. Moreover, this study's findings could have broader implications for the treatment of other eye diseases and conditions, leading to further research and innovation in the field of ophthalmology.

ROP occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow in the retina of premature babies, which can lead to scarring and retinal detachment if left untreated. For decades, laser therapy has been the primary treatment, but it has significant drawbacks. The procedure is physically demanding for both the clinician and the baby, requires general anesthesia or heavy sedation, and can potentially cause nearsightedness and loss of peripheral vision later in childhood.

The international randomized clinical trial, called RAINBOW, compared intravitreal ranibizumab (IVR) injections to laser therapy for treating very low birthweight infants with ROP. The study enrolled 201 children, with 156 followed for five years. It found that visual acuity at age 5 was at least as good in those who received ranibizumab as in those treated with laser. Importantly, no adverse effects were observed in visual function or in a range of non-ocular outcomes assessed, including neurodevelopment, motor function, growth, blood pressure, and respiratory function.

"Our study using ranibizumab should end this safety controversy," said Reynolds. "Ranibizumab is a smaller molecule whose serum half-life is many times shorter than bevacizumab, and ranibizumab does not lower plasma VEGF. Intravitreal ranibizumab (IVR) is at least as effective as laser, it may even be superior to laser and it is systemically safe. Ranibizumab is now the proven safe agent."

The RAINBOW study provides the first evidence of long-term visual outcomes and systemic safety of an anti-VEGF drug for ROP treatment. With its superior effectiveness and safety profile compared to laser therapy, ranibizumab injections could become the new standard of care for saving the sight of premature babies at risk for this devastating blinding disease. These groundbreaking findings mark a major advance in the field of pediatric ophthalmology and offer new hope for preserving the vision of our most vulnerable patients.

Key Takeaways

  • Ranibizumab is a safer and more effective treatment for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) in premature babies.
  • Ranibizumab injections outperform traditional laser therapy with better visual acuity and fewer side effects.
  • The RAINBOW study shows ranibizumab is systemically safe with no adverse effects on visual function or non-ocular outcomes.
  • Ranibizumab could become the new standard of care for ROP treatment, replacing laser therapy.
  • This breakthrough could improve the quality of life for thousands of premature babies born each year.