Adalimumab Used to Treat Alopecia Universalis Case
added 14th November 2014
A woman in her 30s has reportedly received successful treatment for Alopecia Universalis where adalimumab, an antibody being trialled for the treatment of this total hair loss condition by researchers at the New York University School of Medicine, was used to restore her hair.
Also known by its brand name ‘Humira’, adalimumab is a recombinant human IgG1 monoclonal antibody which is administered via injection. It is generally used as a tumour necrosis factor (TNF) blocking anti-inflammatory drug. It is presently used to treat conditions such as Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis.
Humira is also employed as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and plaque psoriasis. This creates a noteworthy parallel with the recent study of JAK inhibitor tofacitinib which saw the drug (brand name, ‘Jakafi’) used to regrow a full head of hair in a male Alopecia Universalis and plaque psoriasis study patient.
Seeing adalimumab apparently reverse the most severe form of alopecia constitutes something of a breakthrough as TNF-a inhibitors have previously been reported to actually cause alopecia.
Dr Marie C. Leger, MD, PhD, who was part of the NYU research team who made the discovery, says of the findings:
“There have been many other case reports in the dermatologic literature of TNF-α inhibitors causing alopecia areata. In contrast, our case report presents a patient who very clearly grew hair on adalimumab”.
“Our patient responded very quickly with very impressive regrowth within 2 months of initiating therapy, suggesting that an extensive trial may not be necessary”.
Responding to whether Humira could worsen cases of Alopecia Universalis, rather than treat them, Dr Leger explained: “Of course patients and physicians need to understand both the risks of immunosuppressant therapy as well as the possibility that adalimumab may worsen the alopecia”.
One element that will need extensive research is finding out more about the potentially serious side effects of adalimumab as a treatment for alopecia universalis. Humira currently carries stern health warnings drawing users’ attention to its potentially severe side effects. Reported side effects range from a risk of contracting serious infections like tuberculosis (TB), as well as an increased susceptibility to infections caused by viruses, fungi or bacteria. Some people using Humira have died from these infections. Humira may also increase the likelihood of lymphoma and other cancers, as well as the hepatitis B infection in existing carriers of the virus. Allergic reactions, nervous system issues, heart failure and some immune reactions are also side effects associated with the drug.
Whilst it is early days for this particular treatment, extensive clinical trials should help to establish whether adalimumab has the potential to be used as a safe and effective treatment for Alopecia Universalis, and for now, gives hope to many sufferers.