Researchers Stop Vitiligo Progression! New hope for millions worldwide
Researchers have been increasingly enthusiastic about harnessing the body's own immune system to fight cancer and other diseases, and new research now shows that established drugs that use this approach may be effective in stopping vitiligo, a chronic skin disease which affects close to 100 million people worldwide.
Dr. Igor Korobko, Chief Scientific Director of the non-profit Vitiligo Research Foundation, has reported a major breakthrough in vitiligo therapy development at the 2013 EADV congress in Krakow. Data released on May 23 from a preclinical study of a Pharmsyntez drug, sold under the trademark Neovir, has shown positive results in arresting vitiligo lesion progression in 73.3 percent of patients with an active form of vitiligo. In four of the 60 patients taking part in the study, vitiligo lesions re-pigmented significantly. (abstract 23 May, 2013)
Sodium oxodihydroacridinylacetate (ODHAA) is the active ingredient in Neovir, with an immunomodulatory capacity that is currently being used to normalize impaired immune system functions for various conditions. Serum tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFα) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels were used as predictive and end-point markers during the trials. The treatment was well tolerated by patients, and no side effects were observed.
Researchers from the VR Foundation study did not compare the drug with a control placebo or other treatment modality, and it is, as yet, unclear how long the effects will last, though there are signs that for many patients, it could be up to a year or more. It is also not clear yet whether the drug will work for segmental vitiligo, which is often seen as a distinctly different form of the disease.
This study, and others on immune system drugs, will perhaps be the most closely watched items in the Vitiligo Research Foundation's drug re-purposing research activities.
The Foundation's CEO, Yan Valle, noted that today scientists know the molecular cause of 4,000 diseases, but treatments are available for only 250 of them. Systematic drug development is lagging behind for many rare and complex diseases. Drug re-purposing offers some effective and cost-efficient solutions. In a way, we are teaching old drugs new tricks.
Mr. Valle went on to add, we are focused on off-label testing of approved drugs that are already on the market, and thus are already available to patients immediately. Neovir is cheaply available without prescription across the former Soviet Union, it is very affordable and has an excellent safety profile. At the moment it is still unclear if or when this drug will be available in the United States.
Coming a month before World Vitiligo Day on June 25 (http://25june.org), it is another positive sign that there is hope on the horizon for vitiligo sufferers.