New robot radiotherapy offers hope for eye disease patients

Credit: Amanda Dalbjörn/Unsplash.

Researchers from King’s College London, along with doctors from King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, have developed a new robotic system that could revolutionize the treatment of a serious eye disease called wet neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

This new robot was used to treat wet AMD by administering a one-time, minimally invasive dose of radiation.

After this treatment, patients continued their usual routine of eye injections.

The groundbreaking trial, published in The Lancet, showed that patients needed fewer injections to manage their disease effectively, which could potentially save around 1.8 million injections worldwide each year.

Wet AMD is a condition where abnormal blood vessels grow into the macula, the part of the eye responsible for central vision.

These vessels leak blood and fluid, leading to rapid, severe, and permanent vision loss. AMD affects about 196 million people globally, with over 700,000 cases in the UK alone.

The number of people with AMD is expected to rise by 60% by 2035 due to the aging population.

Currently, wet AMD is treated with regular injections into the eye. While these injections can initially improve vision, they do not cure the disease. As a result, fluid builds up again, requiring long-term, repeated injections.

Most patients need an injection every 1-3 months, with each injection costing between £500 and £800. Eye injections are one of the most common procedures in the NHS.

The new robotic treatment offers a more precise method by targeting three beams of highly focused radiation directly into the diseased part of the eye.

This method has been found to reduce the number of injections needed to control the disease compared to standard treatments. The study showed that using this robotically controlled device could save the NHS £565 per patient over the first two years due to fewer injections.

Professor Timothy Jackson, the study lead and a Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at King’s College Hospital, explained, “Previous research tried to find better ways to target radiotherapy to the macula using devices meant for brain tumors.

But none were precise enough for treating macular disease, which can be less than 1 mm across. Our purpose-built robotic system allows us to be incredibly precise, using overlapping beams of radiation to treat a very small lesion in the back of the eye.”

Patients generally accept eye injections to preserve their vision, but frequent hospital visits and repeated injections are far from pleasant. The new treatment could reduce the number of injections needed by about a quarter, easing the burden on patients. Dr. Helen Dakin, a University Research Lecturer at the University of Oxford, added, “We found that the savings from giving fewer injections are larger than the cost of robot-controlled radiotherapy. This new treatment can save the NHS money, which can be used to treat other patients, while managing AMD as effectively as standard care.”

This study was a collaborative effort involving researchers from King’s College London, doctors from King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and experts from the University of Oxford, the University of Bristol, and Queen’s University in Belfast.

In summary, the new robot radiotherapy system not only improves treatment for wet AMD but also reduces the number of necessary injections, saving money and making life easier for patients. This innovative approach could mark a significant advancement in the fight against this debilitating eye disease.

If you care about eye health, please read studies about how vitamin B may help fight vision loss, and MIND diet may reduce risk of vision loss disease.

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