Sadly, over the past decades there has been little to excite Dermatologists and Vitiligo patients with regard to potential new helpful treatments. A class of drug known as a JAK inhibitor however, may hopefully soon change that situation.
Skin conditions such as vitiligo, eczema and psoriasis all involve specific forms of abnormal inflammation beneath the skin’s surface. The chemicals in the skin responsible for promoting this unwanted inflammation are known as cytokines. Cytokines play key roles in controlling cell growth and the immune response within the skin. Many of these cytokines function by binding to and activating their targets by attaching to receptors on skin cells known as type I and type II cytokine receptors. A good analogy is to think of the cytokine as a key that fits a receptor which acts as the lock. Once the key (cytokine) fits the receptor (the lock) these receptors in turn rely on the Janus kinase (JAK) family of enzymes to enable the cytokine to activate the cell into action (this is called signal transduction) Hence JAK inhibitors are drugs that inhibit the activity of cytokines to cause unwanted inflammation in by blocking their target (receptor)
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology by Dr. David Rosmarin at Tufts University (June 2017, Volume 76, Issue 6, Pages 1054–1060) reported that a topical formulation of ruxolitinib 1.5% cream induced significant results in 12 vitiligo patients (see an example in the picture below). For reasons unclear, ruxolitinib 1.5% cream was most effective on the face, and not very effective on the hands.
Based on these results, further clinical trials are planned in the United States and will be commencing soon. We all await wit fingers crossed the results of these exciting studies