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Ruxolitinib: The Pill That Could Cure Alopecia Areata

Scientists in America have developed a pill that may cure hair loss from alopecia areata.

Identifying the cells that destroy hair follicles

Columbia University Medical Centre Successfully Trials Drug Ruxolitinib as Cure for Alopecia AreataBy identifying exactly which cells destroyed hair follicles – T-cell immune cells – scientists at the Columbia University Medical Centre in New York, were then able to test the efficacy of a range of treatments. Trials tested several drugs known to stop the destruction of these cells in mice, and all resulted in the hair growing back.

One of these drugs was ruxolitinib, which goes by the brand name of Jakafi in the US, usually prescribed to treat intermediate or high-risk myelofibrosis – a life-threatening bone marrow problem – it is also used in treating cancers and other inflammatory diseases. As with Xeljanz, the rheumatoid arthritis drug recently trialled for the treatment of Alopecia Universalis, ruxolitinib is a Janus kinase inhibitor, also known as a JAK inhibitor.

Trialling ruxolitinib on male alopecia sufferers

Researchers tested the FDA-approved drug, ruxolitinib on three male alopecia areata sufferers who were almost completely bald, by giving them the twice-daily pill to take.  Within four to five months, all three of the men had regrown a full head of hair. Results for one of the men studied are pictured here with considerable regrowth visible by the third month of taking the drug, and a full coverage presenting just a month later.

Pictured right: Top – Seen before the ruxolitinib drug treatment trial, the patient had lost almost all his hair to severe alopecia. Middle – By month 3 of the trial, the patient shows considerable regrowth. Bottom – After 4 months of taking ruxolitinib twice per day, the patient has a full head of hair again.

Side effects of ruxolitinib

Side effects in alopecia areata sufferers are as yet unknown, however, the side effects commonly associated with ruxolitinib when taken for myelofibrosis conditions range from black, tarry stools and bladder pain, to bleeding gums, blood in the urine or stools, and large, flat, blue or purplish patches in the skin.

Further tests are now due to be carried out in the hope that ruxolitinib could become a standard treatment for alopecia in the future. Whilst ruxolitinib could potentially successfully treat alopecia areata, this does not mean it could also cure other hair loss conditions, such as male pattern baldness.

Columbia’s medical team discuss findings

Dr Raphael Clynes of Columbia University, who took part in the study, said: ‘We’ve only begun testing the drug in patients, but if the drug continues to be successful and safe, it will have a dramatic positive impact on the lives of people with this disease.’

Professor Angela Christiano, another of the study’s authors added: ‘Patients with alopecia areata are suffering profoundly, and these findings mark a significant step forward for them. The team is fully committed to advancing new therapies for patients with a vast unmet need.’

As a practising dermatologist at Columbia University, Professor David Bickers has treated many patients with alopecia. He said of the breakthrough: ‘There are few tools in the arsenal for the treatment of alopecia areata that have any demonstrated efficacy. This is a major step forward in improving the standard of care for patients suffering from this devastating disease.’

Funmi Lampejo, Pharmacy Manager at The Belgravia Centre advised, ‘Ruxolitinib belongs to the same class of drugs, (JAK-inhibitors) as another drug which was recently found to be effective in some cases of Alopecia Universalis, tofacitinib. 

Both drugs are licensed by the FDA for conditions ranging from rheumatoid arthritis to myelofibrosis but only ruxolitinib is licensed in Europe at the moment. Ruxolitinib has a greater range of licensed applications compared to tofacitinib.

Neither drug is licensed for the treatment of alopecia although both have showed promising results in treating alopecia of suspected autoimmune origin. It is doubtful that they will be effective in treating androgenetic alopecia but it’s early days yet. Whether either drug is used to treat Alopecia Areata or Universalis will depend on its efficacy in clinical trials for these conditions, and the benefit-risk ratio eg considering effectiveness balanced against severity and incidence of adverse effects.

It would be wonderful if a new treatment could be found for these conditions which can be very distressing and debilitating for patients‘.


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20 Comments

8th December, 2015 at 2:55 pm

vishwanath tandel

i want to regain my hair as i have lost fifty percent hair.can i start treatment by taking ruxolitinib pill.i am 60 year old. please advice.

8th December, 2015 at 4:09 pm

Sarah Belgravia

Hi Vishwanath, You would need to contact your doctor or the University running the clinical trials if you would like to take part as this is a report on the on-going studies into ruxolitinib. We are not involved in this research and this is still in its clinical trial phase - it has not yet been proven safe and effective over the long-term. The study mentioned here has completed, however others are on-going so if you are based in the USA, we recommend you contact Columbia University's alopecia research facility. If we have any updates on the study results or availability of this drug in relation to alopecia areata conditions, we will report it on our blog so do check back for further information.

7th March, 2016 at 7:37 pm

Kerry Fletcher

Hello, my 12 year old son was diagnosed with AA when he was 2. What is the timeframe for when these trials will be complete and a possible licensing of this drug to treat AA please?

8th March, 2016 at 3:29 pm

Sarah Belgravia

Hi Kerry, No timeline has been announced yet as there is still a lot of testing to be done to confirm its safety, tolerability and efficacy. The best thing to do would be to contact the University running the trial directly. We will also post any updates here on our blog as soon as we get them.

8th April, 2016 at 2:31 pm

maria

hi how can i get this drug in my country in asia in iran really i need your help

12th April, 2016 at 11:29 am

Sarah Belgravia

Hi Maria, Ruxolitinib is not currently available as a treatment for alopecia areata as it is still in clinical trials.

8th June, 2016 at 6:06 am

Sania

Hi, Could you provide the contact details please, for direct communications?

8th June, 2016 at 9:29 am

Sarah Belgravia

Hi Sania, We cannot give out these details, however, if you contact Columbia University they will be able to put you in touch.

4th September, 2016 at 7:48 am

mehri

hi.with luck. good help me. we are waiting for you.thank you all. mehri for iran

11th September, 2016 at 8:50 pm

Hamed mohammadi

I hope this discovery opens a new dooe to bring back hope to the heart of the patients like me✌✌

24th September, 2016 at 9:59 pm

Randall Mitchell

Hi, my daughter has Alopecia Aareata and we have been getting it treated over the years to a local dermatologist in Tampa Florida who's been doing a great job but she remains to be on prednisone steroids as Treatment, it started at the age of 3years old she is now 12 years of age, how do we get involved with this new research for Treatment? With (Ruxolitinib)

26th September, 2016 at 5:35 pm

Scott Bysouth

Hi When do you think ruxolitinib will be available i have had alopicia for 25 years now since i was 5 years old.

26th September, 2016 at 8:25 pm

Frank

Amazing. When it will be ready in the market? I was longing for this medicine.. kindly let me know the place where i will get this drug?

27th September, 2016 at 4:34 pm

Sierra

I know it's still in the trial period right now, unsure of any known effects this drug could cause. But if I could grow my hair back? That would be a dream come true. I have had alopecia universalis since I was in the 4th grade, and any chance of having hair again, even if it is a small pixie cut, I would be forever thankful.

3rd October, 2016 at 12:14 pm

Shoaib

First of all good luck and lets hope for the best but still there alot of thing that they are still undiscoverd yet...

4th October, 2016 at 11:00 am

Sarah Belgravia

Hi Randall, you would need to contact the university which is carrying out these studies although they are not currently recruiting for any more trial participants.

4th October, 2016 at 1:45 pm

Sarah Belgravia

Hi Frank, this is only at the small-scale clinical trial stage. It has many more tests and studies yet to be done before a release as a treatment for alopecia areata could even be considered. The earliest estimate, should this pass the necessary larger scale trials, is 2020.

4th October, 2016 at 1:45 pm

Sarah Belgravia

Hi Scott. The earliest estimate is currently 2020.

30th October, 2016 at 3:33 am

Neha

i am 20 year old.Is that drug available in India? I need that drug badly.i am loosing my hairs day by day.

31st October, 2016 at 12:31 pm

Sarah Belgravia

Hi Neha, no this drug is not available for autoimmune alopecia anywhere yet. It is only in the early stages of clinical trials so is unlikely to be released for a number of years yet, although only once it has successfully passed the necessary safety and efficacy tests. As you are based in India we recommend you speak to a local specialist about options available to you now.

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