Ophthalmologists link immunotherapy with a serious eye condition
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IMAGE: Immunotherapy cancer drugs can cause a potentially vision-robbing side effect. In a new report, Dr. Hakan Demirci, ocular oncologist at Kellogg Eye Center, discusses the risks and what oncologists should… view more 

Credit: University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — New immunotherapy treatments offer a remarkable chance for survival for patients with advanced melanoma and hard-to-treat cancers of the bladder, kidney and lung.

But the treatments, designed to unleash the immune system to attack cancer, can also spur an assault on healthy organs, including the eye.

The cases of three recent patients, published by University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center in JAMA Ophthalmology, highlight the issue. Patients receiving immune checkpoint inhibitors developed uveal effusions and eye inflammation that affected their vision.

Although it is rare, knowledge of this risk is important both for the ophthalmologists who treat it and for the oncologists prescribing the anti-cancer treatment, say Michigan Medicine researchers.

With certain inhibitor drugs, the anti-PD-1 (programmed cell death protein-1) and anti-PD-L1 (programmed cell death ligand-1) monoclonal antibody immune checkpoint inhibitors block the interaction between PD-1 receptors on T cells and their counterpart proteins, PD-L1. This blockage allows the T cells in the immune system

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