Clinical and Morphologic Characteristics of Extracellular Signal-Regulated Kinase Inhibitor-Associated Retinopathy


      To investigate clinical and morphologic characteristics of serous retinal disturbances in patients taking extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) inhibitors.


      Single-center retrospective study of prospectively collected data.


      Of 61 patients receiving ERK inhibitors for treatment of metastatic cancer, this study included 40 eyes of 20 patients with evidence of retinopathy confirmed by OCT.


      Clinical examination, fundus photography, and OCT were used to evaluate ERK inhibitor retinopathy. The morphologic features, distribution, and location of fluid foci were evaluated serially. Visual acuity (VA) and choroidal thickness measurements were compared at baseline, fluid accumulation, and resolution.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Characteristics of treatment-emergent choroid and retinal OCT abnormalities as compared with baseline OCT findings and the impact of toxicity on VA.


      Of 20 patients with retinopathy, most showed fluid foci that were bilateral (100%), multifocal in each eye (75%), and with at least 1 focus involving the fovea (95%). All subretinal fluid foci occurred between the interdigitation zone and an intact retinal pigment epithelium. No statistical difference was found in choroidal thickness at fluid accumulation and resolution compared with baseline. Forty-five percent of eyes showed evidence of concomitant intraretinal edema localized to the outer nuclear layer. At the time of fluid accumulation, 57.5% eyes showed a decline in VA (mainly by 1–2 lines from baseline). For all eyes with follow-up, the subretinal fluid and intraretinal edema were reversible and resolved without medical intervention, and best-corrected VA at fluid resolution was not statistically different from baseline. Concomitant intraretinal fluid was not associated with worsening of VA. No patient discontinued or decreased drug dose because of retinopathy.


      This study showed that ERK inhibitors may cause subretinal fluid foci with unique clinical and morphologic characteristics. The observed foci were similar to mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK) inhibitor–associated retinopathy and distinct from central serous chorioretinopathy. However, unlike with MEK inhibitors, an increased occurrence of concomitant intraretinal fluid without significant additive visual impact seems to occur with ERK inhibitors. In this series, ERK inhibitors did not cause irreversible loss of vision or serious eye damage; retinopathy was self-limited and did not require medical intervention.


      Abbreviations and Acronyms:

      AEPVM (acute exudative polymorphous vitelliform maculopathy), BCVA (best-corrected visual acuity), CSC (central serous chorioretinopathy), ERK (extracellular signal-regulated kinase), logMAR (logarithm of the minimum angle of resolution), MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase), MEK (mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase), RPE (retinal pigment epithelium), VA (visual acuity)
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