Vitiligo affects individuals of all ages, and “the social impact is huge,” David Rosmarin, MD, said in a presentation at MedscapeLive’s annual Las Vegas Dermatology Seminar.

Vitiligo, an autoimmune condition that results in patches of skin depigmentation, occurs in 0.5% to 2% of the population. The average age of onset is 20 years, with 25% of cases occurring before age 10, and 70%-80% of cases by age 30 years, which means a long-term effect on quality of life, especially for younger patients, said Dr. Rosmarin, vice chair of education and research and director of the clinical trials unit at Tufts University, Boston.

A woman looks at her mobile phone. She has vitiligo that can be seen on her arms and hands. SolStock/Moment/Getty Images

Studies have shown that 95% of 15- to 17-year-olds with vitiligo are bothered by it, as are approximately 50% of children aged 6-14 years, he said. Although patients with more extensive lesions on the face, arms, legs, and hands report worse quality of life, they report that uncontrolled progression of vitiligo is more concerning than the presence of lesions in exposed areas, he noted.

The current strategy for getting vitiligo under control is a two-step process, said Dr. Rosmarin. First, improve the skin environment by suppressing the overactive immune system, then encourage repigmentation and “nudge the melanocytes to return,” he said.

Topical ruxolitinib, a Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor, is the latest tool for dermatologists to help give the melanocytes that nudge. In July 2022, the Food and Drug Administration approved ruxolitinib cream for treating nonsegmental vitiligo in patients 12 years of age and older – the first treatment approved to repigment patients with vitiligo.

Vitiligo is driven in part by interferon (IFN)-gamma signaling through JAK 1 and 2, and ruxolitinib acts as an inhibitor, Dr. Rosmarin said.

David Rosmarin, MD, vice chair of research and education, Department of Dermatology, Tufts Medical Center, Boston

Dr. David Rosmarin

In the TRuE-V1 and TRuE-V2 studies presented at the 2022 European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology meeting in Milan, adolescents and adults with vitiligo who were randomized to 1.5% ruxolitinib cream twice daily showed significant improvement over those randomized to the vehicle by 24 weeks, at which time all patients could continue with ruxolitinib through 52 weeks, he said.

Dr. Rosmarin presented 52-week data from the TRuE-V1 and TRuE-V2 studies at the 2022 American Academy of Dermatology meeting in Boston. He was the lead author of the studies that were subsequently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the two studies, 52.6% and 48% of the patients in the ruxolitinib groups achieved the primary outcome of at least 75% improvement on the Facial Vitiligo Area Scoring Index (F-VASI75) by 52 weeks, compared with 26.8% and 29.6% of patients on the vehicle, respectively.

In addition, at 52 weeks, 53.2% and 49.2% of patients treated with ruxolitinib in the two studies achieved 50% improvement on the Total Vitiligo Area Scoring Index (T-VASI50), a clinician assessment of affected body surface area and level of depigmentation, compared with 31.7% and 22.2% of those on vehicle, respectively.

Patient satisfaction was high with ruxolitinib, Dr. Rosmarin said. In the TRuE-V1 and TRuE-V2 studies, 39.9% and 32.8% of patients, respectively, achieved a successful treatment response based on the patient-reported Vitiligo Noticeability Scale (VNS) by week 52, versus 19.5% and 13.6% of those on vehicle.

Ruxolitinib cream was well tolerated, with “no clinically significant application site reactions or serious treatment-related adverse events,” he noted. The most common treatment-related adverse events across the TRuE-V1 and TRuE-V2 studies were acne at the application site (affecting about 6% of patients) and pruritus at the application site about (affecting 5%), said Dr. Rosmarin.

JAK inhibitors, including ruxolitinib, baricitinib, and tofacitinib, have shown effectiveness for vitiligo, which supports the potential role of the IFN-gamma-chemokine signaling axis in the pathogenesis of the disease, said Dr. Rosmarin. However, more studies are required to determine the ideal dosage of JAK inhibitors for the treatment of vitiligo, and to identify other inflammatory pathways that may be implicated in the pathogenesis of this condition.

Ruxolitinib’s success has been consistent across subgroups of age, gender, race, geographic region, and Fitzpatrick skin phototype. Notably, ruxolitinib was effective among the adolescent population, with approximately 60% achieving T-VASI50 and success based on VNS in TRuE-V1 and TRuE-V2.

An oral version of ruxolitinib is in clinical trials, which “makes a lot of sense,” Dr. Rosmarin said. “Patients don’t always have localized disease,” and such patients may benefit from an oral therapy. Topicals may have the advantage in terms of safety, but questions of maintenance remain, he said. Oral treatments may be useful for patients with large body surface areas affected, and those with unstable or progressive disease, he added.

Areas for additional research include combination therapy with ruxolitinib and phototherapy, and an anti-IL 15 therapy in the pipeline has the potential to drive vitiligo into remission, Dr. Rosmarin said. In a study known as REVEAL that is still recruiting patients, researchers will test the efficacy of an IL-15 inhibitor known as AMG 714 to induce facial repigmentation in adults with vitiligo.

Dr. Rosmarin disclosed ties with AbbVie, Abcuro, AltruBio, Amgen, Arena Pharmaceuticals, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol Myers Squibb Company, Celgene, Concert Pharmaceuticals, CSL Behring, Dermavant, Dermira, Eli Lilly, Galderma, Incyte, Janssen, Kyowa Kirin, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, Regeneron, Revolo, Sanofi, Sun, UCB, and Viela Bio.

MedscapeLive and this news organization are owned by the same parent company.