Baldness caused by alopecia could soon be treatable

September 17, 2018 by Kathryn Powley, University of Melbourne
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Baldness caused by alopecia areata could soon be treated safely and effectively, after an international University of Melbourne-led trial found two new drugs to be safe and effective.

Until now there has been no effective treatment for the debilitating condition that causes patchy hair loss and affects up to 147 million people globally. About 15 per cent of people with the condition experience total or universal .

The Phase 2a, randomised placebo-controlled study evaluated the efficacy and safety of two drugs known as Janus Kinase (JAK) Inhibitors, PF-06651600 and PF 06700841, in alopecia areata over 24 weeks.

The treatment program found both medications were effective, well tolerated by patients and safe. While promising, the results are yet to be peer reviewed or published.

University of Melbourne Professor of Dermatology Rodney Sinclair presented the findings at the 27th Congress of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology in Paris on Saturday, 15 September.

Professor Sinclair said new molecules used in the trial drugs had also been tested for atopic dermatitis, but this was the first trial conducted in alopecia. He said the latest results were potentially life-changing for those living with alopecia.

"This is a game changer," he said. "Both compounds performed significantly better than placebo in patients with alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis. Both JAK inhibitors were safe and well tolerated."

Professor Sinclair said the new drugs inhibited alopecia's progression and allowed hair to regrow.

"Other medications that target this pathway have been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and to correct blood disorders," he said. "Some of these drugs also work in eczema, psoriasis and a range of other inflammatory and autoimmune conditions."

Professor Sinclair said several patients in the trial experienced adverse events, including infections, gastrointestinal and skin/subcutaneous tissue issues. Two experienced a serious adverse event (rhabdomyolysis) but the patients were asymptomatic and recovered completely when the medication was ceased. There were no serious infections or herpes zoster reactivation.

The first trial has closed but suitable patients may be able to join Phase 3 trials due to start in the next six to twelve months. Patients can check their eligibility with their dermatologist.

The trials involve clinics and universities in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Manitoba, Ontario, Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and Virginia.

Pfizer sponsored and collaborated on the project, which involved patients aged 18-75 with chronic and moderate to severe alopecia areata affecting their scalp.

What are Janus Kinase inhibitors and how are they used to treat alopecia?

Autoimmune diseases, allergies, and even malignancies are often due to a persistent imbalance within complex immune mechanisms. The actions of several cytokines underlie these complex processes, as they play a critical role in the control of the immune responses and inflammatory processes.

Several studies have linked various cytokines, and the receptors or molecules involved in their chemical reactions, to immune-mediated and inflammatory diseases. Therefore, cytokine function modulation has been the focus of intensive research and drug development. Drugs targeting cytokines or their receptors have become the main weapon of physicians dealing with such as areata.

The four JAKs (JAK1, 2, 3 and TYK2) have been shown to be critical components of cytokine-mediated effects.

Explore further: What causes alopecia areata and can you treat this type of hair loss?

Related Stories

What causes alopecia areata and can you treat this type of hair loss?

June 7, 2017
Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss and comes from the Greek word alōpekía referring to the skin condition, mange, in foxes. Alopecia areata causes a unique form of hair loss different to the more common age-related ...

Doctors help teen girl with alopecia areata grow hair using novel cream

December 10, 2015
A young woman who had no scalp or eyebrow hair for years now enjoys a full mane after using a novel cream devised by researchers at Yale School of Medicine.

Vitiligo, alopecia areata may up atopic dermatitis risk

December 5, 2014
(HealthDay)—The prevalence of atopic dermatitis (AD) is higher among patients with vitiligo or alopecia areata (AA), according to research published online Dec. 3 in JAMA Dermatology.

Dry eye disease often diagnosed in alopecia areata

October 30, 2015
(HealthDay)—Many patients with alopecia areata are diagnosed with dry eye disease (DED), and patients should be referred for an ophthalmic evaluation, according to a study published in the November issue of the International ...

Drug restores hair growth in patients with alopecia areata

September 22, 2016
Seventy-five percent of patients with moderate to severe alopecia areata—an autoimmune disease that causes patchy, and less frequently, total hair loss—had significant hair regrowth after treatment with ruxolitinib, reported ...

Arthritis drug may help with type of hair loss

September 22, 2016
(HealthDay)—For people who suffer from a condition that causes disfiguring hair loss, a drug used for rheumatoid arthritis might regrow their hair, a new, small study suggests.

Recommended for you

A new mechanism in the control of inflammation

October 18, 2018
After infection or tissue injury, the inflammatory immune response attacks the infection and repairs the damaged tissue. However, sometimes excess inflammation can have the opposite effect, increasing injury in a process ...

Bug guts shed light on Central America Chagas disease

October 18, 2018
In Central America, Chagas disease, or American trypanosomiasis, is spread by the "kissing bug" Triatoma dimidiata. By collecting DNA from the guts of these bugs, researchers reporting in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases ...

Rapid genomic sequencing of Lassa virus in Nigeria enabled real-time response to 2018 outbreak

October 18, 2018
Mounting a collaborative, real-time response to a Lassa fever outbreak in early 2018, doctors and scientists in Nigeria teamed up with researchers at Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and colleagues to rapidly sequence the ...

Researchers cure drug-resistant infections without antibiotics

October 17, 2018
Biochemists, microbiologists, drug discovery experts and infectious disease doctors have teamed up in a new study that shows antibiotics are not always necessary to cure sepsis in mice. Instead of killing causative bacteria ...

Infectious disease consultation significantly reduces mortality of patients with bloodstream yeast infections

October 17, 2018
In a retrospective cohort study conducted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Division of Infectious Diseases, patients with candidemia—a yeast infection in the bloodstream—had more positive outcomes as they relate ...

How drug resistant TB evolved and spread globally

October 17, 2018
The most common form of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB) originated in Europe and spread to Asia, Africa and the Americas with European explorers and colonialists, reveals a new study led by UCL and the Norwegian Institute ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Mythetis
not rated yet Oct 10, 2018
Is it known when will it be available in europe?

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.