In recognition of World Vitiligo Day, the Dermatology Times team is spotlighting advances and educational opportunities for the condition.
Since 2011, June has been widely recognized as Vitiligo Awareness Month within the community of patients with the disorder, their families, and their loved ones. That same year, the first annual World Vitiligo Day celebrations began, organized by the Vitiligo Research Foundation and the Vitiligo Support and Awareness Foundation, propelling June 25 forward as a day of awareness, recognition, and education.1 In the time since the inaugural holiday, World Vitiligo Day has become an integral part of a global movement to spread information and look ahead to groundbreaking research and transformative therapies in the works for the nearly 70 million2 individuals with vitiligo.
Amit Pandya, MD, FAAD, is president and medical board advisory chair of the Global Vitiligo Foundation (GVF). Pandya began his focus in pigmentary disorders nearly 20 years ago in academic dermatology and is now a dermatologist at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation in Sunnyvale, California, and a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
“World Vitiligo Day helps to focus the recognition of vitiligo as an important condition that has significant effects on human beings across the world. [Although] many [individuals] with vitiligo are happily living with this condition and consider vitiligo part of their identity, there are many who have difficulty coping with their vitiligo and are searching for information, support, and treatment,” Pandya said. “World Vitiligo Day helps provide this information to these individuals. Moreover, it increases awareness about vitiligo to leaders in medicine, funders of research, government institutions, insurance providers, pharmaceutical companies, and the public in general.”
The GVF has participated in World Vitiligo Day activities since 2018, when the organization hosted a US meeting in Detroit, Michigan. Since then, the GVF has hosted annual June meetings nationwide for individuals with vitiligo and their families.
“Hundreds of [individuals] in the vitiligo community gather together every year to hear presentations and participate in workshops on the latest discoveries and treatment [options for] vitiligo from vitiligo experts: how to cope with the psychological effects of this condition, how to empower oneself, [how to] improve resiliency and self-confidence, programs for kids and teens with vitiligo, and most importantly, [how to] socialize with others who are going through the same vitiligo journey,” Pandya said.
Awareness and education efforts will not stop in June, however. Several new, upcoming, and promising therapies are moving down the drug pipeline for vitiligo.
Earlier this year, Brett King, MD, PhD, associate professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, began a symposium session at the 2023 American Academy of Dermatology Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, by referring to 2023 as “the year of the JAK [Janus kinase] inhibitor.”3 With recent discoveries in the abilities of JAK inhibitors, the potential for new, advanced therapies in vitiligo is only expanding.
“The discovery that JAK inhibitors can block the migration of pathogenic T cells to the epidermis where they kill melanocytes in patients with vitiligo has led to the development of multiple new drugs for this condition,” Pandya said, referencing recent advances, including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of topical ruxolitinib cream in summer 2022, which was the first FDA-approved treatment available to patients with vitiligo.4 “[It] is already helping thousands of [individuals] with vitiligo by helping to restore pigment to their skin.”
Three oral JAK inhibitors are entering into phase 3 studies this year. Successful or promising results from these studies have the potential to lead to the release of more JAK inhibitors available for physician and patient use, Pandya said.
Furthermore, researchers have recently made advances in the roles of IL-15 inhibition and pan–bromodomain and extra-terminal inhibition. As a result, new and promising therapies are currently in phase 2 studies. The FDA is also working toward approving a cellular transplant kit for physicians. This approval would make it possible for patients with stable disease states to undergo elective cellulargrafting procedures.
“This is the most exciting time of my career when it comes to [management] of vitiligo,” Pandya said. “It’s an exciting time for everyone in the vitiligo community worldwide.”