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

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