WVU medical student partners with researchers to investigate the effects of thyroid eye disease medication on intraocular pressure

WVU medical student partners with researchers to investigate the effects of thyroid eye disease medication on intraocular pressure

West Virginia University fourth-year medical student Stephen Chen recently partnered with Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences professor John Nguyen, M.D., to investigate the effects of teprotumumab on intraocular pressure among thyroid eye disease patients.

Intraocular pressure (IOP) Is a measurement of the fluid pressure of the eye. A substantial increase in a patient’s IOP can result in the development of glaucoma, which is one of the leading causes of blindness.

Chen and Dr. Nguyen partnered to further explore the relationship between IOP and another ocular condition known as thyroid eye disease (TED), an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the muscle and fat tissue behind the eyes. TED causes inflammation and scar tissue to form and can lead to several ocular conditions, including glaucoma.

For this project, the researchers examined a relatively new TED treatment known as teprotumumab, a medical infusion that blocks the action of a protein in the body that causes ocular inflammation. The treatment is eight infusions given at three-week intervals, and with the results showing reduced inflammation among TED patients.

Nguyen served as the primary investigator for this project, while Chen focused on elements such as chart review, data collection and data analysis.

The team partnered with physicians from other tertiary referral centers to collect extensive data on TED patients who received teprotumumab treatment. Together, they worked to determine if teprotumumab could successfully reduce IOP and how drastically that change would differ between patients diagnosed with the different subtypes of TED.

Through this research, they found teprotumumab to be associated with a significant reduction in IOP, especially in patients diagnosed with acute TED, while those with chronic TED experienced a greater reduction in proptosis, a condition characterized by bulging eyes.

The overall findings suggested that teprotumumab may provide additional benefits of lowering IOP in TED patients, particularly in those who have also been diagnosed with glaucoma.

As a medical student, Chen said he was delighted by the opportunity to team up with Nguyen to come to new conclusions about teprotumumab and that he is excited about the outcomes this research has for future patients.

“I feel grateful to have been able to work alongside Dr. Nguyen to explore a treatment as new as teprotumumab and be on the forefront of new discoveries about its relationship to intraocular pressure,” Chen said. “I hope that we can continue to explore this research further and help reduce our patients’ risk for glaucoma, vision loss, and blindness.”

Chen presented this study at the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery 2023 Fall Meeting held in San Francisco in November 2023. He hopes to continue this research by expanding the study cohort while tracking IOP over time at follow-up appointments.

He and Nguyen are currently working on a manuscript for the study so the findings can be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

To learn more about the opportunities available for medical students at the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, visit medicine.hsc.wvu.edu/eye/students.