Moorfields to start new retinal detachment clinical trial

The Medical Research Council (MRC) Development Pathway Funding Scheme (DPFS) has announced an award of £1.2 million funding for clinical research by Moorfields Eye Hospital and the Comprehensive Clinical Trials Unit (CCTU) at UCL.  

The study is being led by Mahi Muqit, consultant vitreoretinal surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital and honorary clinical lecturer at UCL. The study is an early phase drug discovery that will explore a novel treatment for retinal detachment surgery complicated by scar tissue known as proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR). This novel use of a well-established drug has the potential to reduce or eliminate the retinal scarring from PVR and reduce sight loss. 

The retina is a thin layer of nerve cells that are sensitive to light and line the inside of the eye. They become detached as a result of fluid passing underneath them through one or more holes. This fluid causes the retina to become separated from the supporting and nourishing tissues underneath it. 

Retinal detachment affects 1 in 10,000 people each year in the UK. Without treatment, retinal detachment usually leads to blindness in the affected eye. Sight-saving surgical treatment for retinal detachment is well established and successful, but 10-15% of patients develop scarring due to PVR that prevents permanent retinal re-attachment. As increasing areas of the retina are detached by PVR scar tissue, patients suffer sight loss. Multiple eye surgeries to remove the PVR scar tissue often result in poor vision outcomes that do not meet patient's expectations. 

This Phase I trial aims to demonstrate safety and efficacy of a novel formulation of a known anti-inflammatory drug and method of treatment by direct application to the inside of the patient's eye with retinal detachment affected by PVR. Patients from Moorfields have helped us to develop this research. In collaboration with UCL, researchers at Moorfields will undertake a study of approximately 50 patients to define the most appropriate and safest dose of the drug in patients with retinal detachment. Mr Muqit and the UCL CCTU will collaborate with a leading industry partner in this research. 

Mahi Muqit

Professor Nick Freemantle, director of UCL CCTU in the Institute of Clinical Trials and Methodology, said: “I am delighted to announce the funding for this exciting Phase I trial. It has been a highly competitive process and I am pleased that we are now able to begin translational research into this promising treatment for retinal detachment.” 

Mr Muqit, the study principal investigator, added: “Over the past 10 years at Moorfields, integrating research into my NHS clinical practice, I have led a number of retina translational research trials investigating novel treatments and medical devices for sight-threatening/blinding eye conditions. We now have the opportunity to lead an innovative drug discovery trial of a new anti-scarring agent to potentially stop PVR development in retinal detachment. I am excited by the chance to explore whether we can demonstrate a satisfactory safety profile and signal of effect for this new medication. This treatment has the potential to reduce the number of people with PVR retinal detachment losing their eyesight leading to long-term patient benefit. Retinal detachment is our most common retinal surgical emergency, and a new therapy to improve patient outcomes would be welcomed by the vitreoretinal community and above all by our patients.” 

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8 November 2023