My New Career?

Not to belabor a point, but today did start as a rather poopy day. We had our first snow overnight. Just a couple of inches but it was the puppygirls’ first snow. My theory is this: when they went out and squatted to poop, they got cold, wet bottoms. Go inside and poop? No cold, wet bottom. Problem solved!

Of course, since my husband was first on scene and got to clean it up, he was NOT a happy camper. Not a good start to the day.

Then there was the snow itself. Getting to my eye appointment is a 90 mile trip one way. My husband does not like city driving and he does not like driving in the snow. Once more he was not a happy camper.

It is hard to explain to some people why we have been dutifully driving 90 miles one way, every six months just to be told my eyes are worse. “Please pay your copay.” For those kind of results, I could go five miles down the road!

However, it is all part of a master plan. I have real problems with defeat. Real problem being told there is no answer. If you cannot supply me with an answer, I will find someone who can!

So here I am, running to see Regillo every six months for the past two years….and I think I am getting closer!

First the good news/bad news. Or, in this case, bad news/good news. Although I find it hard to believe, I have fallen down below 20/400 acuity. Bizarre because I don’t feel blind and don’t think I function as a blind woman.. After all, I got the “you don’t look blind!” routine just last month.

However, the good news on that is my vision is now so bad, I can satisfy the truly awful vision requirement for the Astellas’ study that is supposed to launch in March! Regillo referred me again. Is this time four or time five? I have sincerely lost count. [Lin/Linda: I put the details to that study in Sue’s page The Waiting Game.]

He has also put me on the list for APL-2 which is supposed to go into phase 3 clinicals sometime in 2018. He started to offer me “something else” when we were talking about lamp stuff (which is apparently very dead in the water) and I surprised him by knowing exactly where he was going. Working on being memorable. I want my name at the top of the list. [Lin/Linda: Sue wrote about APL-2 in her page My Friend in Manila?]

Also thinking I may be getting closer because I got a new test today. They ran me on the autofluorescence test. This test uses a very bright light. When the image is examined, the areas of the macula that are already dead are black and the areas that are in distress shine. My eye probably lit up like a Christmas tree. If that gets me into a study and gets this stuff stopped? Good.

So, that is where we are. I got a new test. I chose to be hopeful it means they want more information for my new career as a lab rat! Regillo generally seemed positive. Maybe I will be going to Philadelphia.

Written Dec. 14th, 2017 Continue reading “My New Career?”

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Sue’s Best Pages – Part 1

If you are new to our website, you might have looked at the LONG list of Sue’s pages and felt overwhelmed.   I hope this series of “Sue’s Best Pages” will help you to navigate through some of them.  We hope you will eventually read them all.

Spoiler Alert – why should you read these pages?

After a year of learning how to deal with her visual impairment both physically and emotionally, Sue has a rather ‘normal for her’ life: At age 64 and with advanced AMD geographic atrophy, she works several jobs, attends regular exercise classes, rides her bike safely, travels, walks her dog, kayaks, attends social events with her friends.   We are not suggesting that reading her journal will ensure you the same results but we hope that Sue’s Journal of Her Journey will be educational and inspirational.

For the newly diagnosed
  • You need to start In The Beginning.  Follow the sequence of pages with the links that are at the bottom of each page.  The first 13 were written in the early days of this journal.
  • Page 13 “A Human Doing” is where Sue starts to talk about her experiences with Pennsylvania’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation’s Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services.  Because she wanted to continue to work, they were instrumental in getting her the assistive devices and training she needed to do that.
  • Of course, we hope you continue to read from there.  If not, please continue with the next section.
Pages highly recommended by our readers

We ask readers to rate the pages.  I’ve taken the ratings and comments to select these pages.

How She Does What She Does

Sue was 62 when her vision deteriorated so quickly that she had to stop working and driving. She could have started early retirement but she is not the ‘retiring’ type. ::smile:: She contacted Pennsylvania’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation’s (OVR) Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (BBVS).  The services she received included low vision, technology, orientation & mobility and rehabilitation.   Counselors for each of these services came to her home and workplace to deliver assistive technology, software and training. There was a one-time co-pay based on income. Some people pay nothing. Sue paid a small fraction of the true cost of the services, software and devices.

166.  A Day in the Life which covers the time she is not working.

288. A Day in the Life: Work Day

Continue reading “Sue’s Best Pages – Part 1”

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Progress Daily

I really cannot win with this transportation business. Now they are on a string of late pick-ups and I am waltzing in 45 minutes after everyone else. Grrrrrrrrrr!

Oh well, can’t fix it. Time to start a page…..and as soon as I am into it, they will show up. Same concept as going to the bathroom in the restaurant to ‘make’ your meal arrive faster.  Aha! Recognition! You have done that, too!

PRELUDE, the study, is NCT02659098. I checked and this is the same study I put my name in for last year. I just shot off a message to my research contact and asked her to make sure my ‘registration’ is still good. I am nothing if I am not persistent. Sad to say it is one of my better traits (oh no!)

There are actually two, main measurable outcomes they are interested in. There are the efficacy of the delivery system and best corrected acuity after administration of the stem cells. In the clinicaltrials.gov post they refer to the stem cells as CNTO 2476. In other literature they named the stem cells Palucorcel.  I guess it is better than George (with apologies to the royal family. I have never liked the name George, although the little guy is a cutie!) Of course, Palucorcel does not exactly fall trippingly off the tongue.

Anyway, according to a one page write-up by Jessica Lynch, previous attempts to circumvent the vitreous and go in subretinally caused too many problems. They are, as I had been led to believe previously, trying to go around to the macula using the suprachoroidal space as their passage. (Anyone ever see Fantastic Voyage? I keep thinking how incredible it would be to jump in my microscopic submarine and motor through the suprachoroidal space!) After preclinical trials with mini pigs were successful, they launched into prime time with a phase 1 trial with people. As I said, they are now recruiting for phase 2. [Sue wrote about subretinal and suprachoroidal are in the previous page: Secret Passages in the Eyeball

Looking at the additional data on clinical trials.gov I discovered there are secondary outcomes for the study. They will be looking at quality of life and reading speed as well as whether the stem cell transplants slow or even stop the growth of the geographic atrophy. They are also looking at how many people convert to wet AMD. It sounds as if this study would be a long term commitment for the ‘lab rats’ chosen.

Going back to the Medscape article about phase 1, I discovered they had pretty good success threading through the space and the transplanted cells grew and started to function.

Cell placement was important. They used the microperimetry to figure out what retinal areas the subjects were using for eccentric viewing. Too close and that could be messed up. Cell placement other places was better.

Results? The subjects had some improvement in vision. That was SOME. Before you get too excited, remember this is RPE replacement. RPEs do not see. They support your photoreceptors. Some of the photoreceptors that are at death’s door may come back but the dead ones stay dead.

I did run off the journal write-up on phase 1 and I promise to tackle it and see if there were any other cool findings. Later. Right now I have laundry to sort. Maybe listen to an NCIS episode. It is now playing all the way through on my tablet!  What can I say? It really is the little things.

Progress daily, guys. Progress daily. We will get there.

written October 17th, 2017 Continue reading “Progress Daily”

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Down the Rabbit Hole

Hey, back to the article Lin sent, Clinical Endpoints, etc. I now have another question: what scale is my retinologist using to classify me as ‘advanced’? Turns out there are two rating systems in use. One is the Wisconsin Age-Related Maculopathy Grading System and the other is the Beckman Initiative for Macular Research scale. If you are rated on the first one you would be advanced if you had foveal involvement. In the second one any type of GA, foveal involvement or no, you are considered advanced.

I have foveal involvement at least in my left eye so for me, it is actually a moot point. If you have been told you have advanced AMD, you might want to find out which scale is being used. It would appear – and again this is me surmising, not someone who knows something – a pronouncement based on the Beckman scale might not be as bad. You might still have a functional fovea.

Moving right along, lunch!? Be back in about 20!

We are still getting vine-ripened tomatoes out of the garden. In October! Weird…but yummy. Remember to stop and smell the roses, or in this case, taste the tomatoes, on your Journey. Neither one requires decent eye sight!

Back to work. We have talked about optical coherence tomography (OCT) before. I did not know it was not invented until 1996 and not improved to be of any ‘real’ benefit until 2003. One more reason this is not your parent’s AMD. At least the doctors and technicians can see what they are looking at much better now!

I think I said this before, too, but OCT screening can give views in 2 and 3 dimensions. You get depth as well as width and height measures of your lesions, or in my terms, divots. In GA OCT (and an ABC…XYZ to you, too!) you can see sharply delineated regions of degradation in both RPEs and photoreceptors and your choroid poses – gasp! – naked for the camera.

The article also mentions choriocapillaris and thinning and apposition of the overlying nuclear layer. Hold a moment for the translation for the rest of that. What did I EVER do without my iPad?

The capillary lamina is also called choriocapillaris. It is a layer of itsy bitsy blood vessels immediately adjacent to Bruch’s membrane. My assumption is it is below the retina but above Bruch’s membrane The drawings in Wikipedia are too small for me. [Lin/Linda: I can’t find a much bigger picture but this one shows that it is below Bruch’s membrane.]

Apposition means next to. The inner nuclear layer is, again according to Wikipedia, my highly professional source, a layer of the retina made up of closely packed cells of the three following types: bipolar cells (I wonder if they have mood swings? Ouch. Bad psychology joke), horizontal cells and amacrine cells.

Amacrine cells? No clue. That will just have me falling down another layer in the rabbit hole. I am quitting before I meet the Queen of Hearts. Off with their heads!

I will try to get through at least part of the rest of this article later. Maybe impossible but, hey…..

“Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Lewis Carroll, 1865

Written October 8th, 2017 Continue reading “Down the Rabbit Hole”

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Slogging Through Again

I am waiting for my ride to go hot air ballooning and working on deciphering an article Lin sent me. Once again the question is how much loss can we expect from dry AMD, especially geographic atrophy? Regillo told me 60 degrees of arc loss would be extreme but my local retinologist said some people in their 90s can have GA encompassing the entire retina. Ouch.  [Lin/Linda: Sue wrote about ‘degrees of arc’ in her page Love Wikipedia.]

So, here be me again, slogging through another article I about half understand. Want to slog along? I would appreciate the company!

The article is entitled Clinical Endpoints for the Study of Geographic Atrophy Secondary to Age-Related Macular Degeneration published October, 2016. You there in the home audience feel free to download it and play along!

First of all, I latched on the statement (paraphrasing) “drusen may not result in actual visual acuity loss but the effects of having drusen can be seen in functional deficits very early in the disease process”. What functional deficits?

A 2008 paper by Feng Qiu and Susan Leat found people with very early AMD have loss of “low spatial frequency static contrast sensitivity”. Yippee. Once more down the rabbit hole. It appears – according to the appendix of Emergent Techniques for Assessment of Visual Performance – spatial contrast sensitivity has to do with lighting, the place on the retina where the image is falling and something called field size as well as time factors and the orientation of the image.

Boiled down it has something to do with how sensitive we are to variations in the data our eyes are gathering. I think. Don’t hold me to it. Just know that 20/20 vision with drusen might not be as perfect as we might think.

We talked about reduced dark adaptation before and this is also a problem in early AMD. Apparently there are several effects early drusen have that have nothing to do with acuity.

The next thing I had to look up – in the same paragraph, mind you! – was information that might help me understand a statement suggesting advancement to GA from early AMD may in part depend upon the presence of “reticular pseudodrusen”. So now we have drusen impersonators????

According to Association of Pseudodrusen and Early Onset Drusen by De Bats, Wolff et al (doesn’t that team sound perfect for the Halloween season?) pseudodrusen form on top of the RPEs and not below them as do ‘real’ drusen. There seems to be a connection between having ‘eye poop’ aka drusen on top of the RPEs and early and rapid develop of advanced AMD.

And the above was all in one paragraph! I may be a very long time in deciphering this baby.

So what I have discovered so far is this: visual acuity does not tell the whole story about functional vision loss when it comes to early AMD. If you have drusen be aware your contrast sensitivity and dark adaptation are probably already compromised. Secondly, pseudodrusen, which is eye poop on top of the RPEs, can predict a more rapid and earlier progression to GA.

Have I found a thing about GA outside of the macula? Not yet, but I am still reading! Talk at ya later!

written October 7th, 2o17 Continue reading “Slogging Through Again”

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My Friend in Manila?

Happy Tuesday! Waiting for the van to go to school. Yesterday I was picked up at 6:56 to ride 9 miles and be there by 8:30. Dare I say I was not pleased? I just keep turning my mind towards acceptance (DBT alert!).

This is the way it is in my life now and I need to accept such nonsense if I am going to get where I need to go.

Today is day 61 of “your dog is dying.” We took a nearly 40 minute walk yesterday. Pretty active ‘dead’ dog. One day at a time.

I continue to monitor for information on lampalizumab. As of yesterday, September 11, all the news was still financial, but not quite as doom and gloom-ish for Hoffman-La Roche. Just sit tight on that one.

Apellis is drumming up excitement for their geographic atrophy treatment, APL-2. We talked about this before. APL-2 decreased the rate of atrophy growth 29% as compared to sham when injected monthly and 20% when injected every other month. In the second 6 months of the trial the reduction was 47% in the monthly injection group. APL-2 now appears to be the ‘show’ to watch as they go into phase 3 clinicals.

Philip Rosenfeld wrote a short blurb for healio.com. His disclosure statement said he has investments in Apellis. Either he is talking up the product, is truly sincere, or putting his money where his mouth is. In any case, Rosenfeld remarked APL-2 worked across a genetically diverse population sample. There were no stars and no non-responders.

Unfortunately, Rosenfeld also remarked that there is more of a chance of dry AMD developing into wet AMD when APL-2 is used. His opinion was it would have happened anyway in the eyes that became wet, but that will require more research.

We will keep an eye on APL-2.

10 hours later: The van came at 8:01 and had two people going to the local hospital already on it. Late for work? You could say that. Once more the shortcomings of transportation here are giving me fits.

Next, this has nothing to do with eyes but it happened to me today and I do want to mention it. I got an email from a ‘friend’ asking for a ‘favor’. Since my friend lives in Florida I was thinking it was hurricane related.

Turns out it was a scammer ‘phishing’ for money. My ‘friend’ was stuck in Manila and needed $2000. Yeah, right. I asked a couple of questions, obscure stuff that only members of the group I hung with in my 20s and 30s would know, and that was the end of the communication. Maybe my real friend was not stuck in Manila at all!

It appears many people in the world think of Americans as rich and gullible. I am definitely not the first and I try hard not to be the second. I assume it is the same for you.

If your ‘grandson’ emails or calls for ‘bail money’ from Tijuana, be sure to ask a few, HARD, identifying questions. Something that never got online. If the ‘IRS’ or the phone company or gas company or whatever calls and gives you a phone number to call with your credit card number, have someone look up the number independently and call that number to inquire.

Just another public service announcement.

Will check in again later!

written September 11th, 2017 Continue reading “My Friend in Manila?”

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Another Potential Treatment

The more I look into this, the more overwhelming it seems! I am glad I never tried to be a geneticist!

What am I talking about? The latest information on treatment for geographic atrophy suggests there is another gene being targeted. The gene is C3.

Remember how I have been saying Age-Related Macular Degeneration is looking not like one disease but like a family of diseases? When I followed up with some background research on complement factor C3, I found a list of – get this – over 3 dozen different SNPs that preliminary evidence suggests have a role in causing AMD. Remember SNPs or ‘snips’ are genetic coding errors. Some are beneficial. Some are neutral and some can really screw thing up.

Anyway, it appears there are literally dozens – if not more – of ways we can be ‘wrong’ to get AMD. Right now that means they are working on finding dozens of ways to intervene. May be a panacea sometime in the future, but right now they are nibbling at the problem a piece at a time.

And the piece they are nibbling on now is C3. According to a short article by FierceBiotech, Apellis has finished phase 2 – the proof of concept phase – trials with intravitreal injections of a drug they are calling APL-2. Later it will get a trendy brand name but for now look for APL-2.

BusinessWire identifies Apellis as a company “developing a platform of novel therapeutic compounds for the treatment of autoimmune diseases” so I guess people are coming around to see AMD as an autoimmune disease. APL-2 is described as a complement factor C inhibitor. It “binds specifically to C3 and C3b, effectively blocking all three pathways of complement activation (classic, lectin and alternative).” That sort of sounds like it is suppressing ‘friendly fire’ sooner in the process and may be closer to the ‘one treatment fits all’ that we would like to see. Not anywhere near there, but closer.

The results were very promising. At 12 months they showed a 29% reduction in growth as compared to sham.

But the weird – and great! – thing that happened was this: during the second six months of the study, the reduction rate was 47%! For some reason, the effects of the treatment appeared to be cumulative. Pretty cool.

Now I am not sure what type of genotype you have to have to profit from treatment with APL-2. The researchers are not sure at this point either. They decided to do some searching for genetic markers. Being the suspicious sort, I am wondering if they had star responders and non-responders just like they did with lampalizumab. Would make sense. Why do genetic testing on an ‘n’ of 246 people if you don’t have to? It’s expensive.

And speaking about money, there is a lot of money to be made with this drug. Apellis wants to get APL-2 to market quickly so it can compete with eculizumab, a treatment for PNH, a blood disease. (Apparently PNH is also related to complement factor C). Their competition, Soliris, was predicted to bring in more than $3 billion in 2017. Sometimes a little greed is a good thing! $3 billion can really motivated people.

So, there you go. It seems they have found one more way to save some of the sight of some of the people some of the time. Number two potential treatment for our ‘untreatable’ disease. The wall is coming down a brick at a time. There is hope.


Here’s another article about APL-2 that says “APL-2, a complement C3 inhibitor, has met its primary endpoint in its phase 2 clinical trial, reducing the rate of geographic atrophy (GA) associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).”

written August 27th, 2017 Continue reading “Another Potential Treatment”

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