A 25-year old man treated for plaque psoriasis with an arthritis drug also exhibited ample hair regrowth from the drug after losing all body and head hair to a rare condition.
The man had alopecia universalis, a rare disease that leaves its victims, men and women alike, hairless. The disease has no known cure, but the results seen on this man give hope to many.
The study was conducted at Yale University. Doctors aimed to treat the man, who chose to remain unnamed, for his plaque psoriasis with the drug meant to treat rheumatoid arthritis. The drug, made by Pfizer, is called tofacitinib citrate and has been proven to sometimes treat psoriasis in humans and alopecia universalis in mice, but has never been used to grow hair in humans.
"The results are exactly what we hoped for," says Brett King, M.D., dermatology assistant professor at Yale University School of Medicine, in a press release. "This is a huge step forward in the treatment of patients with this condition."
King is also the senior author of a paper reporting the results in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.
Never has this rare condition been treated. The results first showed two months after the man began taking 10 mg of the drug daily. He exhibited some scalp and facial hair. He was then given 15 mg for three more months. Eight months after the man began the treatment, he had eyebrows, eyelashes, armpit hair and a full head of thick, blond hair; the doctors were elated. The man reports no side effects and the doctors say test results are clear. This will hopefully hit the gas pedal on treatments for other victims of the disease.
"We believe the results will be duplicated in other patients, and we plan to try," says King.
Researchers believe the drug regrows hair by shutting down the immune system's attack on hair follicles, which is the source of the illness.
While the drug is FDA-approved for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, it must be approved for a clinical trial to see the results in other patients with alopecia. King hopes to conduct these trials with a cream form of tofacitinib.
He cites Angela Christiano, a scientist at Columbia University, and her work on the effects of tofacitinib in mice and reversal of alopecia, as the reason he attempted the treatment and a prime example of the importance of investing in research.