Vitiligo treatment holds promise for restoring skin pigmentation

September 17, 2014, Henry Ford Health System
This image shows the effects of the combination treatment on skin repigmentation, from top to bottom, at baseline, at 66 days and at 140 days of the study. Credit: Henry Ford Hospital

A treatment regimen is safe and effective for restoring skin pigmentation in vitiligo patients, according to a Henry Ford Hospital study.

"Our findings offer patients with vitiligo worldwide a renewed hope for a bright future in the treatment of this disfiguring disease," says Henry Lim, M.D., chair of Dermatology at Henry Ford and the study's lead author. "Patients with lesions on their face and arms could have a more rapid response to the combination treatment."

Henry Ford dermatologists described the repigmentation results as "superior," and said the treatment combination holds promise as a future therapy for the more than 50 million people worldwide living with vitiligo. It affects about one in every 100 people in the United States.

The study will be published online Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association-Dermatology.

In a multi-center study led by Henry Ford, dermatologists sought to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of a treatment combination of afamelanotide, a drug that induces , and phototherapy using narrowband ultraviolet-B rays (NB UVB). Phototherapy, or ultraviolet light therapy, is the treatment of choice for many patients with widespread vitiligo. It has been shown to be effective, though the degree of repigmentation varies.

Dr. Lim, an international vitiligo expert, says afamelanotide "enhances the ability of the UVB to induce repigmentation of the skin."

Patients were randomly divided into two study groups: Group A received the combination therapy; Group B received only NB UVB treatment.

Key findings:

  • Repigmentation occurred faster in patients who received the combination treatment compared to patients who received NB UVB.
  • Patients who received the combination treatment achieved appearance of pigment on their face and arms after 40 days compared to 60 days for patients who received NB UVB.
  • In dark-skinned patients, repigmentation occurred faster in the combination group compared to the NB UVB group.
Henry Lim, M.D., chair of Dermatology, Henry Ford Hospital, highlights the study. Credit: Henry Ford Hospital

Afamelanotide is in the process of being submitted for approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in treating vitiligo.

Vitiligo is a skin disease that causes the skin to lose color and develop white patches that vary in size and location. It develops when cells called melanocytes are killed by the body's immune system, causing the area of skin to turn white because the cells no longer make pigment. Vitiligo is more noticeable in individuals with darker skin tones, but it affects all races and ethnicities.

While vitiligo is neither contagious nor life-threatening, there is no cure. However, it causes low self-esteem and depression for those living with the disease.

The Henry Ford study represents its latest research into investigating new treatment options for vitiligo. In a 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Henry Ford dermatologists showed the benefits of skin cell transplant surgery, called melanocyte-keratinocyte transplantation or MKTP. Henry Ford has since performed more than 190 MKTP procedures on patients from Michigan, 23 other U.S. states and Canada.

For this new study, 55 patients were enrolled at four sites – Henry Ford, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and Vitiligo and Pigmentation Institute of Southern California and University of California Davis' Department of Dermatology.

In the two study groups, 28 patients were enrolled in Group A and 27 patients in Group B. Both groups received phototherapy two to three times a week for six months for a total of 72 treatments. In addition to phototherapy, patients in Group A received a dose of 16 mg of afamelanotide in four monthly treatments. Afamelanotide, about the size of a grain of rice, was implanted just under the skin.

Two common assessment scoring systems – Vitiligo Area Scoring Index and Vitiligo European Task Force – were used to evaluate the repigmentation response.

While in both groups showed repigmentation, the response in Group A was superior to Group B by the 56th day of treatment and even better by the 168th day of . The most common side effect was redness of the .

Explore further: Skin transplant offers new hope for vitiligo patients

More information: JAMA Dermatology. Published online September 17, 2014. DOI: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2014.1875

Related Stories

Skin transplant offers new hope for vitiligo patients

May 30, 2012
Henry Ford Hospital dermatologists say skin transplant surgery is safe and effective for restoring skin pigmentation caused by the skin disease vitligo.

Henry Ford Hospital first in United States to offer MKTP surgery as treatment option for vitiligo

October 25, 2011
Henry Ford Hospital is the first in the country to offer skin transplant surgery as part of its treatment portfolio for patients with the skin disease vitiligo.

Study examines vitiligo, alopecia areata and chronic graft vs. host disease

September 10, 2014
Vitiligo (depigmentation of the skin) and alopecia areata (AA, patchy or complete hair loss) in patients with chronic graft-vs-host disease (GvHD) following a stem cell transplant appear to be associated with having a female ...

Skin cell transplant may offer new hope to vitiligo patients

June 22, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Skin cell transplants can restore pigment to the skin of some patients with the disorder known as vitiligo, new research finds.

Explainer: What is vitiligo?

June 4, 2014
Vitiligo, a human skin condition that turns patches of skin and hair white, it is not a disease we hear much about, although it affects approximately 1% of the population.

Recommended for you

E. coli—are we measuring the wrong thing?

April 25, 2018
A sepsis awareness and management programme has demonstrated overall success in terms of improved sepsis detection, but has led to an increase in the number of E. coli blood stream infection cases presented, calling into ...

Malaria study reveals gene variants linked to risk of disease

April 25, 2018
Many people of African heritage are protected against malaria by inheriting a particular version of a gene, a large-scale study has shown.

Commonly prescribed heartburn drug linked to pneumonia in older adults

April 24, 2018
Researchers at the University of Exeter have found a statistical link between pneumonia in older people and a group of medicines commonly used to neutralise stomach acid in people with heartburn or stomach ulcers. Although ...

Kids with rare rapid-aging disease get hope from study drug

April 24, 2018
Children with a rare, incurable disease that causes rapid aging and early death may live longer if treated with an experimental drug first developed for cancer patients, a study suggests.

Early treatment for leg ulcers gets patients back on their feet

April 24, 2018
Treating leg ulcers within two weeks by closing faulty veins improves healing by 12 per cent compared to standard treatment, according to new findings.

Research finds new mechanism that can cause the spread of deadly infection

April 20, 2018
Scientists at the University of Birmingham have discovered a unique mechanism that drives the spread of a deadly infection.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.