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Transforming Treatment Restores Vision

As the caretaker of her husband and her mother, Gloria Cohen understands what it means to be dependent and incapacitated. A youthful 72, she is an agile tennis player and golfer who was losing her vision to age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Strolling along the beach in front of her home, she is eager to share her story about how her vision improved after her recent treatment with Lucentis, a new drug used to treat certain forms of AMD. AMD interferes with one’s ability to recognize faces or drive or to perform detailed work such as reading and sewing. AMD is the leading cause of vision blindness in individuals over 55. Lucentis, the drug that helped Gloria, treats wet AMD. Gloria was diagnosed with AMD when she was 49 years old. Then, one day while playing golf she noticed that another person on the tee appeared to have “squiggly” legs. Soon afterwards she realized that she was not seeing objects that were in her direct vision.

Gloria tried to ignore her vision loss until one day while she was driving, she almost had a collision with another car. This incident motivated her to seek help as her family members rely on her for daily care. She read an article in AARP Magazine about Dr. Joan W. Miller, a retina specialist at Mass. Eye and Ear who was working with a new drug called Lucentis. Today Dr. Miller is the Chief of Ophthalmology at Mass. Eye and Ear, and Chair of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Miller examined Gloria and found that she had evidence of leakage and her visual acuity had decreased to 20/200 on the eye chart. What the average person can see from 200 feet, Gloria could only see from 20 feet.

Dr. Miller recalls, “When I met Gloria, I was conducting a clinical trial investigating Lucentis here at Mass. Eye and Ear. Gloria was a good candidate for the treatment.” Drs. Miller, Evangelos Gragoudas, Ivana Kim and Tony Adamis from the MEEI and Judah Folkman from Children’s Hospital, Boston, were the first to identify that ranibizumab, which makes up the drug Lucentis, inhibits the growth of the destructive new blood vessels.

Lucentis and her care at Mass. Eye and Ear have transformed Gloria’s life. “I no longer feel handicapped,” she says, "That’s a very good feeling.”