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New Research for Atopic Dermatitis

Medically reviewed by Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, COI on May 19, 2016Written by Megan Baird on May 19, 2016
atopic dermatitis new research

Atopic dermatitis (AD) isn’t a new condition, but new research is paving the way for better, more effective treatments. The latest research is reexamining treatment guidelines and exploring new medications.

A push for new research

For years, dermatology research focused on psoriasis. But AD is starting to get more attention. Here are a few instances of how AD research is making its way to mainstream news:

  • A 2015 story on National Public Radio (NPR) describes the frustration of an AD diagnosis. The study acknowledges that AD can be a time consuming and expensive diagnosis.
  • A 2015 article in JAMA Dermatology reviewed AD guidelines from a handful or organizations. It compared each group’s most recent AD management guidelines. The findings revealed several key differences in management recommendations between the organizations.
  • A review article in a 2013 issue of Pediatric Drugs examined the factors that prompted the initial FDA warning label on topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCIs). The 2006 warning label states that TCIs may cause rare incidences of skin cancer and lymphoma. According to the review, there has been no conclusive proof that links TCI use with cancer risk. It’s apparent that more research is needed to see if the warning label can be removed.
  • A 2012 meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) highlighted new research on AD in children and adolescents. Research suggests that small genetic mutations on the outermost layer of the skin are responsible for the conditions that lead to AD. The same small mutations are also commonly present in people with dry skin. The research also showed that those mutations are associated with higher rates of peanut allergies and asthma.

New medications

Researchers are also working hard to discover new treatments to replace or supplement current options. Due to patient concerns about steroids and TCIs, research on new medication is progressing rapidly.

  • A recent small study tested an oral drug called tofacitinib. This drug is most often used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, but it was tested on people with AD. This was a very small study and more testing is needed. But the use of RA medication on AD patients highlights some similarities. It suggests that AD functions more like an autoimmune disease than a surface-level skin disorder. More research to better understand these similarities should pave the way for new treatments.
  • Dupilumab is another promising new treatment option. It’s being developed and tested as a treatment for AD and moderate to severe asthma. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine assessed the efficacy of dupilumab injections in patients with moderate to severe chronic AD.

The results of dupilumab studies are promising for people with AD. About 85 percent of the patients had a 50 percent reduction in the severity of their AD. All patients treated with dupilumab reported significant, rapid improvement in all aspects of AD.

Like the research on tofacitinib, this study shows an interesting link between AD and other related diseases. Phase III clinical trials for dupilumab are currently underway.

Clinical trials

Clinical trials are a great option for people looking to try a new treatment. If you’re interested in participating in an AD clinical trial, the National Eczema Association (NEA) posts a current list on their website. By participating in clinical trials, you can help shape the future of AD treatment options.

The future of atopic dermatitis

It’s a promising time for AD research. There’s a public demand for more information, and researchers have taken an active interest in providing solutions. Based on current research and clinical studies, the outlook for AD patients is promising.

There are new medications and treatments on the horizon. Researchers are starting to treat AD like an autoimmune disease, which has opened a new realm of possibilities.

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