A major trial by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer into the use of potential new treatment options for Alopecia Areata, which leads to sudden, patchy hair loss, is to seek participants from Australia, Canada and all over the United States.
The latest news follows a previous announcement from the company that it intends to conduct a Phase 2a randomised, double-blind trial using a JAK3 inhibitor drug named PF-06651600 and a TYK2/JAK1 inhibitor PF-06700841.
The company plans to recruit 132 people with the condition, which is classed as an autoimmune disorder, for what is now clearly intended to be a trial with a truly global scope.
Pfizer’s mystery drug
What is unknown at this stage is the precise make-up of the two drugs that Pfizer intend to trial. The company already makes a well-known JAK inhibitor named Xeljanz (tofacitinib citrate), which was developed for people with rheumatoid arthritis. However, it has also shown potential at treating people with Alopecia Areata, when it was used by scientists at Yale University School of Medicine on a patient with plaque psoriasis. The patient also happened to have an extreme and rare form of Alopecia Areata named Alopecia Universalis, which causes the whole body to shed all of its hair, and saw significant regrowth for the first time in many years, while using Xeljanz.
These findings encouraged a number of scientists with an interest in Alopecia Areata to initiate their own trials into JAK inhibitor drugs as potential treatment options for people with the condition, some of which are considered to have been a success. At present, however, no JAK inhibitors have been licensed by the MHRA in the UK or approved by the FDA in the US for use on any form of autoimmune hair loss disorders. Question marks linger about the long-term safety of what are essentially a rather powerful suite of drugs.
Effective treatment options are already available for adults affected by the moderate version of Alopecia Areata, which causes patchy hair loss to the scalp only. At Belgravia, clients following bespoke Alopecia areata treatment courses often see significant results through consistent use of recommended, topical high strength minoxidil formulations, paired with appropriate hair growth boosters.
Much has happened in the field of Alopecia Areata research since Pfizer’s trial was first announced in January 2017. In that time, Concert Pharmaceuticals’ phase IIa trial into the JAK inhibitor CTP-543 was placed on hold by the FDA following safety concerns, but was allowed to proceed once the scope of the trial was amended.
Additionally, key discoveries have been made showing the involvement of regulatory T Cells (also known as Tregs) in the biology of Alopecia Areata. With further research and development, these findings may one day lead to more targeted treatments for people with all forms of the condition.
JAK inhibitors’ route to market?
In April of this year, patents were granted in the USA for baricitinib and decernotinib JAK inhibitors – the two current front-runners for potential treatments for even the most severe forms of Alopecia Areata. The patents were granted to the Trustees of the Columbia University School of Medicine in New York, where noted Alopecia expert Dr Angela Christiano runs a research team. It appears that a company named Aclaris Therapeutics, with whom Columbia have an agreement, would be the ones charged with taking any resultant new drugs to market. A release date of 2020/2021 has been mooted.
Meanwhile a trial by Boston-based Novopyxis has been set up to look into new delivery methods for Alopecia Areata treatment drugs. While JAK inhibitors as potential autoimmune hair loss drugs have been investigated both in oral tablet and topical cream forms, LEO’s novel take on proceedings suggests that a spray-on solution may one day be an effective way to use Alopecia Areata medication. Currently little is known about the liquid they are testing, other than the name it is referred to by in trial registration documents: LEO 124249.
Unfortunately, it’s not all good news – a research letter published by the JAMA Dermatology journal suggested that Xeljanz may not be effective for everyone with Alopecia Areata and related conditions, at least in its current form. After examining records of 13 people with Alopecia Areata, Alopecia Universalis or Alopecia Totalis (which leads to total hair loss on the head but not the body) who had used the drug, they found that regrowth over a nine-month period ranged from two to 90 per cent, although it should be noted that three participants did pull out of treatment.
Whilst it takes many years to sufficiently develop and test new prescription medications to the point where they are safe to be made available to the public, these new avenues are certainly exciting. This is especially true for people with the more extreme types of Alopecia Areata who, until now, have had no reliable treatment options.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.