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New Trial Explores Topical Tofacitinib as Alopecia Areata Treatment


A leading dermatologist at Yale University has announced plans to trial a topical version of the rheumatoid arthritis drug Tofacitinib on people with autoimmune-related hair loss caused by forms of Alopecia Areata.

Tofacitinib belongs to a group of groundbreaking drugs known as JAK inhibitors, which were developed to tackle a variety of conditions including certain cancers but which have also shown success at treating people with Alopecia Areata. The new Yale study, led by assistant professor Dr Brett King, will specifically be looking at the efficacy of a new cream made with tofacitinib and applied directly to the scalp.

Tofacitinib (Xeljanz) being trialled as Alopecia Areata TreatmentPlans to recruit 10 people

His plan is to recruit 10 people with at least two patches of hair loss that has been caused by Alopecia Areata, and treat them with tofacitinib ointment for no longer than six months. They will be assessed every four weeks to check for progress, and before and after the test a lab evaluation will be performed to check for adverse effects of the treatment.

Dr King hasn’t yet given a date for his trial to start, but recruitment looks to be imminent if he is to meet his estimated completion date of next summer.

Dr King is fast becoming a leading name in the use of JAK inhibitors on people with Alopecia Areata: he has already reported a successful single-person test after using a different JAK inhibitor applied topically. Last year, he and his team used a cream based on a drug named ruxolitinib on a 17-year-old female with an extreme form of Alopecia Areata named Alopecia Totalis.

At the time, they stated that the patient applied the cream twice a day to her scalp and eyebrows (Alopecia Totalis leads to total hair loss all over the head) and after 12 weeks she had “complete restoration of eyebrows and partial regrowth of her scalp.”

The patient then switched from the topical lotion to the pill form of the drug to continue her treatment and is said to have gone on to grow a full head of hair.

He and his team also made the initial discovery regarding tofacitinib (brand name: Xeljanz) as a potential treatment for alopecia areata after successfully using it to regrow scalp, face and body hair in a man with Alopecia Universalis – the most severe iteration of the condition which causes complete hair loss from head to toe.

Welcome addition

It would certainly be true to suggest that hair loss experts are watching the work of Dr King and others keenly, as the results they appear to have been achieving with patients seem promising. Assuming JAK inhibitors do prove effective long-term and one day get regulatory clearance for use against alopecia, particularly the more severe forms where treatment is currently largely considered to be ineffective.

History has proven on countless times, however, that the path to market is not an easy one for new medications, and there are many obstacles that will need to be overcome before JAK inhibitors become a widely available option for Alopecia Areata treatment. Concern that some of the drugs may increase the chances of cancer are the most serious among them.

Should these new drugs pass the necessary safety and efficacy tests they could give hope not only to those with Alopecia Totalis and Universalis, but also become a welcome addition to the alopecia areata treatment courses currently available to men and women with the mild-to-moderate form of the condition when it affects the scalp only.

Belgravia has seen many instances of alopecia areata clients achieving successful regrowth from following bespoke treatment courses built around appropriate formulations of high strength minoxidil. These types of specialist regrowth programmes are available now to over 16s and are personalised to each individual’s precise needs following consultation with a hair loss specialist nurse.

Belgravia CentreThe Belgravia Centre

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.

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