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NIAMS Highlights CTCL

Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) received special attention at the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) two-day conference entitled “Immunomodularity Drugs in the Treatment of Skin Diseases: What Can We Learn About Pathophysiology?” Because CTCL is a rare disease, it is infrequent that it enjoys a moment in the spotlight. The more CTCL is addressed in these formats, the greater the opportunity for additional drug testing and research.

Members of academia and the pharmaceutical industry attended the conference. The goal of the conference was to develop a better understanding of skin diseases through the evaluation of their responses to immunomodulatory drugs. Immunomodulatory drugs refer to new biologic agents that have been developed to target the immune system in beneficial ways.

Skin diseases that respond to immunomodulatory drugs include those that have an immune abnormality associated with them. Diseases that were discussed include atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, CTCL, lupus, vitiligo, alopecia areata, pemphigus, pyoderma gangrenosum, graft vs. host disease and non-melanoma skin cancer.
The use of multimodality treatment in CTCL, i.e., use of biologic response modifiers such as photopheresis, Interferon-alpha, retinoids, etc., was discussed by Alain Rook, M.D. of the University of Pennsylvania. Madeline Duvic, M.D. of the MD Anderson Cancer Center reviewed the experience with bexarotene (Targretin®) and other retinoids, and their favorable response rates. Lars French, M.D. of the University of Geneva reviewed preliminary data of a new treatment approach with use of a novel synthetic molecule that targets the CD-40 receptor, and appears to have beneficial effects in CTCL.

The conference highlighted many other new findings, and provided stimulus to investigators in academia and industry for future collaborations to continue to develop and test immunomodulatory drugs for the treatment of skin diseases. The inclusion of CTCL on the agenda increased the disease’s visibility. Such visibility is very beneficial and can increase opportunities for new immunomodulatory drugs to be tested in CTCL.