New hope for Vitiligo sufferers

Winnie Harlow

A topical cream has been found to be “extremely effective” in reversing the effects of vitiligo – the autoimmune disease that causes the loss of skin colour in about one percent of the population.

The topical application of Ruxolitinib, which is currently used as an oral treatment for some blood disorders, resulted in “substantial improvement of facial vitiligo symptoms in nearly half of the participants” in a phase II clinical trial in the US.

During the two-year trial, coordinated by the Tufts Medical Center in Boston, 157 participants applied Ruxolitinib or a placebo to the area of skin affected by vitiligo once or twice daily.

About half of the highest dose of Ruxolitinib patients saw “a statistically significant improvement of near 50 percent in their facial vitiligo”.
Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease that affects around one percent of the worldwide population – approximately 50 million people including model Winnie Harlow and comedian Steve Martin.

Currently, there is no known cause, or FDA-approved treatment or cure, for the disease which see the immune system attack pigment cells in the body.

Vitiligo may range from mild to severe and can be found anywhere on the body, although it typically affects exposed areas such as the face and hands. The disease affects all ethnic groups equally, but is more evident in people with darker skin..

Presenting the results of the clinical trial at the World Congress of Dermatology in Milan, Italy, Tufts Medical Center dermatologist Dr David Rosmarin said Ruxolitinib could be a “game changer” for people with Vitiligo.

“Current treatments such as phototherapy, topical corticosteroids, and calcineurin inhibitors have limited efficacy, and phototherapy treatment can be a burden for patients to have to use a light box two or three times per week,” he said.

“Topical Ruxolitinib has the potential to change the way vitiligo is treated. Not only is it effective at repigmenting the skin, but it has an excellent safety profile.

“We also are optimistic that many vitiligo patients may see an even better response with continuous Ruxolitinib usage over an extended period of time, combined with phototherapy and sunlight exposure.

“Our hope is that this treatment ultimately will be a game-changer for the millions of people worldwide affected by vitiligo.. as unfortunately, there is often a social stigma associated with vitiligo, and it can take a significant psychosocial toll on patients.”

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