BACKGROUND. Alopecia areata (AA) is an autoimmune disease characterized by hair loss mediated by CD8+ T cells. There are no reliably effective therapies for AA. Based on recent developments in the understanding of the pathomechanism of AA, JAK inhibitors appear to be a therapeutic option; however, their efficacy for the treatment of AA has not been systematically examined.
METHODS. This was a 2-center, open-label, single-arm trial using the pan-JAK inhibitor, tofacitinib citrate, for AA with >50% scalp hair loss, alopecia totalis (AT), and alopecia universalis (AU). Tofacitinib (5 mg) was given twice daily for 3 months. Endpoints included regrowth of scalp hair, as assessed by the severity of alopecia tool (SALT), duration of hair growth after completion of therapy, and disease transcriptome.
RESULTS. Of 66 subjects treated, 32% experienced 50% or greater improvement in SALT score. AA and ophiasis subtypes were more responsive than AT and AU subtypes. Shorter duration of disease and histological peribulbar inflammation on pretreatment scalp biopsies were associated with improvement in SALT score. Drug cessation resulted in disease relapse in 8.5 weeks. Adverse events were limited to grade I and II infections. An AA responsiveness to JAK/STAT inhibitors score was developed to segregate responders and nonresponders, and the previously developed AA disease activity index score tracked response to treatment.
CONCLUSIONS. At the dose and duration studied, tofacitinib is a safe and effective treatment for severe AA, though it does not result in a durable response. Transcriptome changes reveal unexpected molecular complexity within the disease.
TRIAL REGISTRATION. ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02197455 and NCT02312882.
FUNDING. This work was supported by the US Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Research and Development, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases National Institutes of Health grant R01 AR47223 and U01 AR67173, the National Psoriasis Foundation, the Swedish Society of Medicine, the Fernström Foundation, the Locks of Love Foundation, the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, and the Ranjini and Ajay Poddar Resource Fund for Dermatologic Diseases Research.
Milène Kennedy Crispin, Justin M. Ko, Brittany G. Craiglow, Shufeng Li, Gautam Shankar, Jennifer R. Urban, James C. Chen, Jane E. Cerise, Ali Jabbari, Mårten C.G. Winge, M. Peter Marinkovich, Angela M. Christiano, Anthony E. Oro, Brett A. King
Seventy patients were enrolled in the trial, of which 68 received medication.
Two patients dropped out of the trial prior to receiving medication due to inability to attend trial visits. Two additional patients withdrew from the study prior to completing 3 months of tofacitinib citrate.