This review aims to bring together recent advances in basic, translational and clinical research on the pathogenesis and treatment of orbital inflammatory conditions.
Basic science studies provide mechanistic insights into why the orbit is targeted for inflammation by autoimmune inflammatory disorders. Using Graves’ disease as a test case reveals that endocrine pathways, such as the TSH and IGF1 receptor pathways play important roles in stimulating orbital inflammation. Furthermore, orbital tissues contain high concentrations of retinoids – byproducts of the visual pathway that diffuse across the sclera and can activate de novo transcription of inflammatory cytokines. Such cytokine expression places the orbit in a hyper-inflammatory ‘resting’ state, prone to respond to any additional systemic or local pro-inflammatory signals. The HIF2A–LOX pathway appears important for orbital tissue fibrosis. Lastly, bench-to-bedside studies of the IGF1R pathway have led to an FDA-approved drug, teprotumumab that represents a novel treatment approach for Graves’ orbitopathy. Unfortunately, high drug costs and misplaced insurance company ‘step-therapy’ policies may block patients from receiving therapy that can protect vision and improve quality of life.
Improved understanding of orbital inflammatory conditions has led to a new drug and promises additional breakthroughs. Translational research is successful, but requires time, resources, and patience.