The Changing Landscape of Alopecia Areata: The Therapeutic Paradigm

Adv Ther. 2017 Jul;34(7):1594-1609. doi: 10.1007/s12325-017-0542-7. Epub 2017 Jun 23.


Alopecia areata (AA), a prevalent inflammatory cause of hair loss, lacks FDA-approved therapeutics for extensive cases, which are associated with very poor rates of spontaneous hair regrowth and major psychological distress. Current treatments for severe cases include broad immune-suppressants, which are associated with significant adverse effects, precluding long-term use, with rapid hair loss following treatment termination. As a result of the extent of the disease in severe cases, topical contact sensitizers and intralesional treatments are of limited use. The pathogenesis of AA is not yet fully understood, but recent investigations of the immune activation in AA skin reveal Th1/IFN-γ, as well as Th2, PDE4, IL-23, and IL-9 upregulations. Tissue analyses of both animal models and human lesions following broad-acting and cytokine-specific therapeutics (such as JAK inhibitors and ustekinumab, respectively) provide another opportunity for important insights into the pathogenesis of AA. As reviewed in this paper, numerous novel therapeutics are undergoing clinical trials for AA, emphasizing the potential transformation of the clinical practice of AA, which is currently lacking. Dermatologists are already familiar with the revolution in disease management of psoriasis, stemming from better understanding of immune dysregulations, and atopic dermatitis will soon follow a similar path. In light of these recent developments, the therapeutic arena of AA treatments is finally getting more exciting. AA will join the lengthening list of dermatologic diseases with mechanism-targeted drugs, thus changing the face of AA.

Keywords: Abatacept; Alopecia areata; Baricitinib; Dupilumab; JAK inhibitors; PDE4; Ruxolitinib; Tofacitinib; Tralokinumab; Ustekinumab.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alopecia Areata / drug therapy*
  • Alopecia Areata / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Dermatologic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use*


  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Immunosuppressive Agents