A three-year trial by Australian laser therapy company Ellex Medical Lasers has suggested that lasers can fight off vision loss caused by age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Ellex (ASX:ELX) posted results of its three-year, 292-patient clinical trial late on Thursday, saying that there was a 77 per cent reduction in the rate of progression from intermediate AMD to late AMD.

However Ellex said “the primary endpoint of the trial was not met” — and that left investors in two minds today.

The shares trading as high as 87c on Friday morning but quickly fell to 70.5c by midday — a drop of almost 15 per cent.

Patients were treated with the company’s Ellex 2RT, a laser therapy designed to stimulate the eye’s natural healing processes to treat the early stages of AMD, to see if it was safe and effective and to examine whether it could delay the progression of the disease.

Late-stage AMD is treated with six weekly injections of drugs directly into a patient’s eye, which can help to preserve vision, but also causes scarring.

Ellex chief Tom Spurling said though the trial did not meet the primary endpoint of reduction in rate of progression of the entire trial population, the results were promising and presented further opportunity.

“The significant reduction in the risk of progression to late AMD in the large subset of patients without confers a significant first-mover advantage for our proprietary Ellex 2RT technology in these patients,” he told investors.

“With no currently approved treatment options available for AMD in its early stages in these markets, or indeed anywhere in the world, we believe the LEAD data will be of significant clinical interest to retinal specialists and ophthalmologists seeking an intervention for patients with the early stages of AMD.”

Professor Robyn Guymer, chief investigator for the trial, agreed.

“While this isn’t a cure, and it is not suitable for every patient with AMD in its early stages, the impressive outcomes in reducing progression to late AMD are important as this is the first time that a laser intervention has shown promise in addressing AMD disease progression in more than 20 years of AMD laser research,” she said.

The company will now commence a commercial program specifically targeting the 15 million patients who may benefit from the treatment.

Ellex shares rose three per cent on the news to an intraday high of 85c.

Ellex Medical Lasers (ASX:ELX) over the past year.