Defining response to anti-VEGF therapies in neovascular AMD

W.M. Amoaku, U. Chakravarthy, R. Gale, M. Gavin, F. Ghanchi, J. Gibson, S. Harding, R.L. Johnston, S. Kelly, A. Lotery, S. Mahmood, G. Menon, S. Sivaprasad, J. Talks, A. Tufail, Y. Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The introduction of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) has made significant impact on the reduction of the visual loss due to neovascular age-related macular degeneration (n-AMD). There are significant inter-individual differences in response to an anti-VEGF agent, made more complex by the availability of multiple anti-VEGF agents with different molecular configurations. The response to anti-VEGF therapy have been found to be dependent on a variety of factors including patient’s age, lesion characteristics, lesion duration, baseline visual acuity (VA) and the presence of particular genotype risk alleles. Furthermore, a proportion of eyes with n-AMD show a decline in acuity or morphology, despite therapy or require very frequent re-treatment. There is currently no consensus as to how to classify optimal response, or lack of it, with these therapies. There is, in particular, confusion over terms such as ‘responder status’ after treatment for n-AMD, ‘tachyphylaxis’ and ‘recalcitrant’ n-AMD. This document aims to provide a consensus on definition/categorisation of the response of n-AMD to anti-VEGF therapies and on the time points at which response to treatment should be determined. Primary response is best determined at 1 month following the last initiation dose, while maintained treatment (secondary) response is determined any time after the 4th visit. In a particular eye, secondary responses do not mirror and cannot be predicted from that in the primary phase. Morphological and functional responses to anti-VEGF treatments, do not necessarily correlate, and may be dissociated in an individual eye. Furthermore, there is a ceiling effect that can negate the currently used functional metrics such as >5 letters improvement when the baseline VA is good (ETDRS>70 letters). It is therefore important to use a combination of both the parameters in determining the response.The following are proposed definitions: optimal (good) response is defined as when there is resolution of fluid (intraretinal fluid; IRF, subretinal fluid; SRF and retinal thickening), and/or improvement of >5 letters, subject to the ceiling effect of good starting VA. Poor response is defined as <25% reduction from the baseline in the central retinal thickness (CRT), with persistent or new IRF, SRF or minimal or change in VA (that is, change in VA of 0+4 letters). Non-response is defined as an increase in fluid (IRF, SRF and CRT), or increasing haemorrhage compared with the baseline and/or loss of >5 letters compared with the baseline or best corrected vision subsequently. Poor or non-response to anti-VEGF may be due to clinical factors including suboptimal dosing than that required by a particular patient, increased dosing intervals, treatment initiation when disease is already at an advanced or chronic stage), cellular mechanisms, lesion type, genetic variation and potential tachyphylaxis); non-clinical factors including poor access to clinics or delayed appointments may also result in poor treatment outcomes. In eyes classified as good responders, treatment should be continued with the same agent when disease activity is present or reactivation occurs following temporary dose holding. In eyes that show partial response, treatment may be continued, although re-evaluation with further imaging may be required to exclude confounding factors. Where there is persistent, unchanging accumulated fluid following three consecutive injections at monthly intervals, treatment may be withheld temporarily, but recommenced with the same or alternative anti-VEGF if the fluid subsequently increases (lesion considered active). Poor or non-response to anti-VEGF treatments requires re-evaluation of diagnosis and if necessary switch to alternative therapies including other anti-VEGF agents and/or with photodynamic therapy (PDT). Idiopathic polypoidal choroidopathy may require treatment with PDT monotherapy or combination with anti-VEGF. A committee comprised of retinal specialists with experience of managing patients with n-AMD similar to that which developed the Royal College of Ophthalmologists Guidelines to Ranibizumab was assembled. Individual aspects of the guidelines were proposed by the committee lead (WMA) based on relevant reference to published evidence base following a search of Medline and circulated to all committee members for discussion before approval or modification. Each draft was modified according to feedback from committee members until unanimous approval was obtained in the final draft. A system for categorising the range of responsiveness of n-AMD lesions to anti-VEGF therapy is proposed. The proposal is based primarily on morphological criteria but functional criteria have been included. Recommendations have been made on when to consider discontinuation of therapy either because of success or futility. These guidelines should help clinical decision-making and may prevent over and/or undertreatment with anti-VEGF therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)721-731
Number of pages11
Issue number6
Early online date17 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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