Canadian researchers break ground unlocking mysteries of glaucoma in one of world's largest studies of disease



    CNIB-funded study produces "gold mine" of new data, bringing hope to
    67 million affected by open-angle glaucoma.

    MONTREAL, June 22 /CNW/ - The world community of glaucoma researchers and
67 million people with this devastating eye disease worldwide can expect to
benefit from a groundbreaking CNIB-funded study released today. More than 15
years in the making, the Canadian Glaucoma Study positively identified, for
the first time, several risk factors predicting the progression of this little
understood disease.
    "The results provide a gold mine of data that is unparalleled in the
field," said Dr. Balwantray Chauhan, the study's principal investigator, and
chair of vision research at Dalhousie University's Faculty of Medicine. "It's
very exciting, and it's going to open the door for much more targeted research
that will help us understand this disease." Dr. Chauhan presented the study's
results at the Canadian Ophthalmological Society (COS) conference in Montreal.
    Open-angle glaucoma involves damage to the eye's optic nerve, often
characterized by high intraocular pressure (IOP). The disease often progresses
over many years, and many people do not realize they have it until vision loss
is permanent and untreatable. Until now, scientists knew little about why some
patients develop the disease faster than others after IOP is taken into
account. The Canadian Glaucoma Study looked at multiple, controlled factors,
and found four of highest significance:

    
    -   Anticardiolipin antibodies: Patients who had an antibody, associated
        with thrombosis (clotting in the circulatory system) or autoimmune
        disease, were four times more likely to progress in the disease. This
        had never before been considered as a possible risk factor, and will
        require further study.
    -   Gender: Women were twice as likely as men to progress in the disease.
    -   Age: For every year someone ages, their chance of progressing
        increases by 4%, confirming that open-angle glaucoma is primarily
        age-related.
    -   IOP: Even though the study controlled for IOP, it still emerged as a
        major factor in the progression of glaucoma - making it even more
        significant than previously imagined. The study showed that for every
        mmHg of increased IOP, the risk of progression increases by an
        astonishing 20%.
    

    Significantly, the study also ruled out several factors previously
thought to be important, concluding that people with diabetes, hypertension
and a history of cardiovascular disease were not more likely to than others to
progress if they had glaucoma.
    The investigation is the largest and most rigorous study on glaucoma ever
undertaken in Canada (and among only half a dozen studies of such size and
scope worldwide in the last 10 years). It was designed in 1992 with the
unprecedented participation of leading glaucoma specialists across Canada and
followed 258 patients in university hospitals at McGill, Université de
Montreal, Dalhousie, University of British Columbia, and University of
Toronto.
    The length of the study (following patients between 1994 and 2005)
contributed greatly to its significance. "It is important to look at any
slowly progressing disease over a long period," said Dr. Chauhan, "But
longitudinal studies of this duration are rarely funded. We're grateful to
CNIB and all our partners who made this possible." CNIB contributed $1.8
million to the study, with the balance of the $2.2 million cost coming from
the Glaucoma Research Society of Canada, Merck Frosst, Pfizer, and Allergan.
    "As someone who was born with a severe form of open-angle glaucoma, I
know how devastating this disease can be," said CNIB president and CEO Jim
Sanders after the study's release. "CNIB is enormously proud to have supported
Dr. Chauhan and the entire team who contributed to this landmark research
across Canada."

    About CNIB

    CNIB is a nationwide, community-based, registered charity committed to
public education, research and the vision health of all Canadians. CNIB
provides the services and support necessary to enjoy a good quality of life
while living with vision loss. Founded in 1918, CNIB reaches out to
communities across the country, offering access to rehabilitation training,
innovative consumer products and peer support programs, as well as alternative
format newspapers and magazines, and braille and talking books from its
library.

    Photo from the presentation at COS to follow on CNW.
    For an electronic media kit, including background information and
statistics about glaucoma, visit www.cnib.ca

    /NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release will be
    available on the CNW Photo Network and archived at
    http://photos.newswire.ca. Additional archived images are also available
    on the CNW Photo Archive website at http://photos.newswire.ca. Images are
    free to accredited members of the media/





For further information:

For further information: Sylvain-Jacques Desjardins, Communications
Manager, CNIB, Office: (514) 934-4622, ext. 227, Cellular: (514) 247-7383,
Sylvain-jacques.desjardins@cnib.ca; Jessica Parrales, Communications
Coordinator, CNIB, Phone: (416) 486-2500 ext. 7570, Jessica.parrales@cnib.ca

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