Our momentum is unstoppable and we will definitely find a cure in the next 20 years

Posted: Tuesday 24 December 2019

From an early stage in his medical career consultant ophthalmologist and researcher Dr Pearse Keane said he was always interested in ophthalmology. He said: "I have always dreamt about finding new and better ways to improve the outlook for people with sight-threatening disease." 

Now, Dr Keane is taking part in an exciting research project, which is using artifical intelligence to analyse eye scans and will improve our understanding of how macular disease progresses and how we can stop it from stealing our sight. 

Looking back over his career he has spoken to us about the biggest developments in macular disease over the last 20 years and talks about what he thinks the future will hold for patients.  

"By far the biggest development in age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and macular disease as a whole has been the development of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) injections, such as Lucentis and Eylea.

"When I started training in ophthalmology there was simply no effective treatment for wet AMD. These treatments have allowed, for the first time, an effective treatment for this condition. Although not perfect, these treatments have stopped huge numbers of people from becoming severely sight impaired. This brings profound benefits for patients, often allowing them to keep reading, driving, using computers, playing music and many other activities. 

"At present, even though we have reasonably good treatments for conditions such as “wet” AMD, there is still a huge burden on patients and their families. People receiving anti-VEGF injections typically have to come to hospital eye service on a monthly or bimonthly basis for years and years. In the future, we will have much longer-acting treatments for this condition which won’t require such frequent checks.

"With the increasing use of artificial intelligence, I think we will also see the initial diagnosis of AMD being made at much earlier stages, with more and more long-term monitoring of the condition being done in people’s communities, and even in their homes. 

Dr Keane said he remains optimistic about what the future holds for people with macular disease. 

"I’m an optimist - I think our momentum is unstoppable and we will definitely find a cure in the next 20 years! The support of organisations such as the Macular Society will be crucial to this." 

Progress is being made in research, but so much more needs to be done. 

Help find a cure.