|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 7, 2005
|CONTACT: James F. Jorkasky
Vision Researcher Dr. Neil Bressler Educates Congressional Staff About Current Research into Care for Diabetic Retinopathy
(Washington, D.C.) - "We've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go," said vision researcher Neil Bressler, M.D. (The Wilmer Eye Institute/Johns Hopkins University) today in a Congressional briefing on Diabetic Retinopathy, held in conjunction with the House and Senate Diabetes Caucuses and sponsored by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF) and the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR). Dr. Bressler reviewed the status of various treatments and therapies emerging from federally funded research being conducted by the National Eye Institute (NEI) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as well as other industry sources and private foundations such as JDRF. He focused on the current activities of a Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research (DRCR) Network funded by the NEI in partnership with JDRF, which he will chair beginning January 1, 2006, following inaugural chair Lloyd Aiello, Jr., M.D.. Ph.D. (Joslin Diabetes Center).
JDRF Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Robert Goldstein welcomes attendees.
"Diabetic retinopathy is the most common complication of diabetes, and about half of patients with it do not know that they have it," said Dr. Bressler, who identified improved detection techniques for early diagnosis as one focus of the DRCR Network's research. With respect to treatments, Dr. Bressler acknowledged the ongoing value of laser photocoagulation to inhibit macular edema associated with the leakage of capillaries in the retina, noting that this technique was developed through past collaborative research between the NEI and other scientists within NIH. "Due to this past NEI research, less than two percent of patients will go blind from diabetic retinopathy," said Dr. Bressler, who cautioned that the full effectiveness of laser photocoagulation is still dependent on early detection and treatment, especially as new blood vessels begin to form in the retina.
Left to right: Dr. Bressler joins AEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky and JDRF Vice President for Government Relations Larry Soler
Dr. Bressler reported on the latest NEI research, some of which is conducted in collaboration with industry, on ophthalmic drugs that may be beneficial for retinal swelling or edema from diabetes, and future collaborations evaluating factors that inhibit the formation of new blood vessels. "The anti-angiogenic (new blood vessel-inhibiting) medications are the first generation of ophthalmic drugs to cause improvement in some individuals with the "wet" form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and are just starting to be evaluated in clinical trials for diabetic retinopathy," said Dr. Bressler, who added that future treatments could potentially consist of a combination of these drugs and laser photocoagulation. Such studies are already underway and others are planned for implementation by the DRCR Network.
Dr. Bressler concluded by highlighting the importance of early detection and management of diabetes as a chronic disease, including educating patients as to the current standard of care to reduce blindness complications. He also reiterated the importance of ongoing laboratory and clinical research that is demonstrating promising results and urged continuing Congressional support for the NIH/NEI, in terms of both federal funding and public-private initiatives, such as the current DRCR Network.
Neil Bressler, M.D., is the James P. Gills Professor of Ophthalmology in The Wilmer Eye Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. The Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network, funded through a cooperative agreement between the NEI and JDRF, consists of 521 investigators (60 percent of which are community-based physicians) at 155 sites in 43 states.
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF) is the leading charitable funder and advocate of Type 1 diabetes research worldwide. The mission of JDRF is to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research. Visit JDRF's Web site at www.jdrf.org.
The Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR) is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating Congress and the public about the importance of federal funding for eye and vision research. AEVR unites the community of support for eye and vision research, including the ophthalmic and optometric professionals, consumer advocates and industry to speak with a unified voice about the economic and societal value of research. Visit AEVR's Web site at www.eyeresearch.org.