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Ruxolitinib Cream Restores Hair Growth in Yale Study

JAK inhibitor treats alopecia areata

A young woman who had no scalp or eyebrow hair for years has grown a full head of hair after using a cream devised by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine.

The 17-year-old patient had alopecia areata, a disfiguring autoimmune disease that affects tens of millions of people worldwide and has limited treatment options. The disorder may cause spotty hair loss or complete loss of scalp hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, and all other body hair. The patient in this study, which was published in JAMA Dermatology, had tried multiple treatments without success.

To treat the condition, Dr. Brett King, assistant professor of dermatology, and his colleagues devised a topical formulation of an oral medication used to treat bone marrow diseases. The drug, ruxolitinib (Jakafi, Incyte Corporation), belongs to a class of medications called Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors, which alter the immune system. King had previously used another oral JAK inhibitor, tofacitinib (Xeljanz, Pfizer), to restore hair in a male patient with alopecia universalis in 2014, and other researchers have shown that oral ruxolitinib also restores hair in this condition.

In the new study, the patient applied the cream twice a day to her scalp and eyebrows. After 12 weeks, she had complete restoration of eyebrows and partial regrowth on her scalp. After switching from the cream to a pill form to continue her treatment, the patient now has a full head of hair.

The outcome was better than anticipated, King said. “The results with the cream are as good as what are expected with pills over the same amount of time,” he noted.

A cream is more appropriate for many patients with alopecia areata, including those concerned about possible risks, such as cancer and infections, that have been associated with oral JAK inhibitors, the researchers said. No adverse effects were observed in the patient using the cream.

“This is a first in the treatment of a devastating and common autoimmune disease and builds on our recent efforts to show that treatment is within reach for millions of people who suffer from alopecia areata,” King said.

Source: Yale University; December 9, 2015.

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