ANCHOR and MARINA trials

Shaping Macular Degeneration Treatment: A Review of the ANCHOR and MARINA Trials

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss among older adults, affecting millions of people worldwide. Central to the fight against this disease have been two significant clinical trials, the Anti-VEGF Antibody for the Treatment of Predominantly Classic Choroidal Neovascularization in Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ANCHOR) and the Minimally Classic/Occult Trial of the Anti-VEGF Antibody Ranibizumab in the Treatment of Neovascular Age-Related Macular Degeneration (MARINA) trials. These studies marked a turning point in AMD treatment, unveiling the power of anti-VEGF therapies. This article reviews the remarkable insights garnered from the ANCHOR and MARINA trials, which have significantly shaped the contemporary management of AMD.

Understanding Age-Related Macular Degeneration

AMD is a degenerative retinal disease that primarily affects individuals aged 50 and over. It commonly leads to the loss of central vision, severely impacting daily life activities. AMD comes in two forms: dry (non-neovascular) and wet (neovascular). The wet form, characterized by the growth of abnormal blood vessels under the retina, leads to severe vision loss, albeit affecting only 10-15% of AMD patients.

The initiation and progression of wet AMD are associated with vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a protein that stimulates blood vessel formation. Anti-VEGF therapies, therefore, emerged as a promising approach to treating wet AMD by inhibiting abnormal blood vessel growth and leakage, reducing edema, and preserving vision.

Before the introduction of anti-VEGF therapies, the treatment options for wet AMD were limited and less effective. The ANCHOR and MARINA trials were pivotal in establishing the efficacy and safety of ranibizumab, an anti-VEGF drug, in the treatment of wet AMD.

ANCHOR and MARINA Trials: An Overview

The ANCHOR and MARINA trials were Phase III, multicenter, randomized, double-blind studies. Both trials aimed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of ranibizumab in patients with wet AMD, but they focused on different subtypes of the disease.

The ANCHOR trial evaluated ranibizumab in patients with predominantly classic wet AMD, in comparison with photodynamic therapy with verteporfin, a standard treatment at that time. The MARINA trial, on the other hand, studied patients with minimally classic or occult wet AMD, comparing ranibizumab with sham injections.

Both trials helped establish ranibizumab as a first-line treatment for wet AMD, profoundly impacting the landscape of AMD treatment and setting a new standard of care for this debilitating condition.

Findings of the ANCHOR Trial

The ANCHOR trial demonstrated the superiority of ranibizumab over photodynamic therapy in improving and preserving vision. The study reported that patients receiving ranibizumab were more likely to maintain their vision, with many even experiencing significant vision improvement.

Importantly, the beneficial effects of ranibizumab were not only seen at the end of the trial but also as early as the first month of treatment. Furthermore, these benefits were sustained for up to two years, the entire duration of the study, which highlighted the long-term effectiveness of ranibizumab.

The ANCHOR trial also showed ranibizumab to be safe for use in wet AMD. While side effects were reported, including eye pain, intraocular inflammation, and increased intraocular pressure, they were generally manageable and did not outweigh the benefits of treatment.

Findings of the MARINA Trial

The MARINA trial reported similarly positive results for ranibizumab. The study found that ranibizumab not only halted disease progression but also improved vision in many patients with minimally classic or occult wet AMD.

Like the ANCHOR trial, the benefits of ranibizumab were seen early in the MARINA trial and were sustained over two years. This consistent effectiveness of ranibizumab in improving and preserving vision made it a breakthrough in AMD treatment.

The MARINA trial also found ranibizumab to be safe for use. The incidence of adverse events was low and comparable to that in the sham group, further cementing the role of ranibizumab in the treatment of wet AMD.

Impact on Clinical Practice

The results from the ANCHOR and MARINA trials had a profound impact on the management of wet AMD. The trials validated the concept of anti-VEGF therapy and established ranibizumab as a new standard of care for wet AMD.

The clinical success of ranibizumab spurred the development and approval of other anti-VEGF agents, including bevacizumab and aflibercept. These drugs have broadened the therapeutic arsenal for wet AMD and have also been incorporated into treatment protocols based on the results of the ANCHOR and MARINA trials.

Ranibizumab’s introduction has undoubtedly improved the prognosis of patients with wet AMD. Patients now have a higher chance of maintaining their vision and quality of life, marking a significant stride in the fight against this debilitating disease.

Influence on Patient Management and Follow-up

The ANCHOR and MARINA trials also influenced the patient management and follow-up strategies in wet AMD. Both trials administered ranibizumab monthly, and this regimen proved effective in maintaining and improving visual acuity.

However, the requirement for frequent injections raised concerns about treatment burden and healthcare costs. This led to the exploration of alternative dosing regimens, such as as-needed (pro re nata, PRN) or treat-and-extend, which aim to maintain the benefits of anti-VEGF therapy while reducing the number of injections and clinic visits.

Further studies have since evaluated these alternative regimens, and while they have shown slightly varied results, many have confirmed the effectiveness and safety of less frequent dosing in certain patient groups, providing more flexibility in patient management.

Future Research Directions

While the ANCHOR and MARINA trials significantly improved wet AMD treatment, there is still much to learn. Future research needs to focus on identifying which patients will respond best to anti-VEGF therapy and which may require alternative or additional treatments.

We need to conduct further studies to determine the optimal dosing and administration regimen for each patient. This includes research into personalized treatment plans, taking into account individual patient characteristics and response to therapy.

Finally, the development of newer anti-VEGF drugs and the exploration of combination therapies with other treatment modalities present exciting prospects for the future of AMD treatment.

Long-term Implications of ANCHOR and MARINA Trials

The long-term implications of the ANCHOR and MARINA trials extend beyond the immediate benefits seen in patients with wet AMD. These trials demonstrated the potential of targeted therapies in ophthalmology and paved the way for their use in other retinal diseases.

Moreover, the success of these trials has encouraged further investment in AMD research, leading to a better understanding of the disease and the development of new treatment strategies. They have highlighted the importance of large-scale, randomized controlled trials in validating new therapies and driving their adoption in clinical practice.

Importantly, the trials have also emphasized the importance of patient-centric outcomes, such as visual acuity and quality of life, in evaluating the effectiveness of new treatments, which is now a standard approach in clinical trials.

Lessons Learned from ANCHOR and MARINA Trials

The ANCHOR and MARINA trials taught the scientific community several valuable lessons. They demonstrated the importance of rigorous trial design in generating robust evidence to support the use of new therapies.

These trials also highlighted the critical role of patient compliance in the success of therapy. The need for frequent injections and regular follow-up visits emphasized the importance of patient education and communication in managing chronic diseases like AMD.

Finally, the trials underscored the power of innovation. They showed how the development and validation of new therapies could significantly change the treatment landscape and improve patient outcomes, even for a complex disease like AMD.

Challenges and Future Outlook of ANCHOR and MARINA trials

Despite the remarkable strides made in AMD treatment since the ANCHOR and MARINA trials, challenges remain. There is still a need for more affordable treatment options, as the high cost of anti-VEGF therapy can limit access to care.

Another challenge lies in managing non-responders to anti-VEGF therapy. While most patients benefit from treatment, a small proportion does not respond adequately, necessitating the development of alternative therapies.

The future of AMD treatment, however, looks promising. Advances in gene therapy, stem cell therapy, and nanotechnology, coupled with a better understanding of the disease’s pathogenesis, promise to bring forth more effective and potentially curative treatments for AMD.


The ANCHOR and MARINA trials revolutionized the treatment of wet AMD, establishing the pivotal role of anti-VEGF therapy and significantly improving patient outcomes. These landmark studies not only shaped the landscape of AMD treatment but also set a blueprint for future clinical trials, reinforcing the importance of rigorous study design, robust outcome measures, and patient-centric care. While challenges remain, the lessons learned from these trials and the continued advances in AMD research hold great promise for an even brighter future in AMD treatment.




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