Research session shines light on interesting new treatments

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Hensin Tsao, MD, PhD, (right) talks with a session attendee about the latest research advances in dermatology.

Several promising treatments for psoriasis, rosacea, atopic dermatitis, pruritus, and cancers, and even the effect of botulinum toxin on mental health were presented March 22 in a six-hour, two-part AAD Annual Meeting symposium, “The Latest in Dermatology Research.”

“I do think there were announcements of new therapeutic approaches or drugs that are quite memorable,” said Hensin Tsao, MD, PhD, the course director. “It was personally exciting since it speaks to the pace of discovery in dermatologic therapeutics.

“There was a mix of findings—some may very well change practice in the next three years, and some in the next eight to 10 years. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the research presented enters the clinical realm within the next one to two years.”

The symposium opened with seven presentations focusing on psoriasis, where treatments using secukinumab, guselkumab, tofacitinib, etanercept, and methotrexate were evaluated in studies and trials.

“There is now top-notch epidemiology and outcomes research in psoriasis. There also is a lot of therapeutic development and new drugs. The excitement about psoriasis as a breakthrough area of research continues,” said Dr. Tsao, professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School.

Growth in psoriasis research seems to be driving developments in other areas, including rosacea. The symposium had three presentations about the disease — including the use of dupilumab and ivermectin 1-percent cream.

“The same pathway development that we have seen in psoriasis therapeutics appears to be migrating into other areas, such as atopic dermatitis,” he said. “Dupilumab seems very promising and builds upon the same technological principles that have revolutionized psoriasis biologics. It was also refreshing to see something like ivermectin cream offer benefit to patients with rosacea.

“It is safe to say that we are beginning to understand how to transform mechanism into medicine.”

Five cancer studies also were reported on, examining cutaneous T cell lymphoma (CTCL), Merkel cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

“For difficult-to-treat CTCL, resiquimod showed tremendous promise. This is a new derivative of imiquimod that is having a real impact on CTCL,” Dr. Tsao said.

The other presentations looked at using gene expression profiles to predict outcomes, using CDK7 (cyclin-dependent kinase) inhibitors to treat melanoma, and a new blood test that tracks antibodies to the Merkel polyomavirus.

“In the next three to five years we could be routinely monitoring blood work to follow Merkel cell carcinoma patients,” Dr. Tsao said.

One of the more unusual presentations featured a psychiatrist discussing the use of botulinum toxin A to treat major depressive disorder.

“The idea is that how you express yourself changes the way you feel, so people who frown a lot eventually become more sad. People who smile a lot eventually become happier,” Dr. Tsao said. “The idea is that with botulinum toxin you potentially interrupt that cycle so they eventually feel better about themselves. There was a substantial response to botulinum toxin in standardized depression metrics.”

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