Updated Treatment for Acne: Targeted Therapy Based on Pathogenesis

Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2021 Aug;11(4):1129-1139. doi: 10.1007/s13555-021-00552-6. Epub 2021 Jun 11.


Previous approaches to acne management have focused on the four main factors implicated in acne, namely, androgen-mediated sebogenesis (considered integral to acne), hyperkeratinization, colonization with Cutibacterium acnes, and inflammation related to both innate and adaptive mechanisms. Recent advances have facilitated potential novel approaches to acne management, as the pathophysiology and the immunological aspects related to acne and wound healing have evolved. Particular targets that have been shown to be closely involved in acne pathophysiology and wound healing include interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-17, IL-23, and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα). Biological antibodies targeting IL-1β, IL-17, IL-23, and TNFα could provide novel approaches for treating severe acne and related disorders. Acne is primarily a disease associated with sebogenesis. Monosaturated free acids are important components. Insulin growth factor 1 (IGF-1) promotes the proliferation and differentiation of sebocytes and IL-1β. Research into the microbiome may also provide insights into potential future therapeutic options for acne. Scars, both atrophic and hypertrophic, are common sequelae to acne. Risk factors associated with the development of acne scars include genetic, systemic, local, and lifestyle factors. Pro-inflammatory cytokines have been shown to play a crucial role in the development of acne-induced hypertrophic scars. Treatment for extensive inflammatory keloid scarring is limited. Surgery and postoperative radiotherapy are two possible options. Transforming growth factor-β (TGFβ), IL-6, matrix metalloproteinase (MMP), IGF-1, and B cells are found in keloid or hypertrophic scar tissues. Biological antibodies targeting these cytokines may be a potential strategy for the prevention and treatment of this type of scar in the future. Future treatment for acne should embrace approaches that target the main etiological factors of acne. In particular, specific emphasis on aggressive treatment in the acute inflammatory phase to reduce the likelihood of scarring and other clinical sequelae, such as pigmentary changes would be highly desirable. Treatment for established acne-induced sequelae should also be considered.

Keywords: Acne; Biologics; Cascoterone; Immunology; Microbiome; Targeted therapy; Trifarotene; Wound healing.

Publication types

  • Review