Though it’s been more than a decade since a new class of topical medication has been approved for psoriasis, there are several promising new anti-inflammatory compounds to keep an eye on, says Dr. Linda Stein Gold.

Dr. Stein Gold, director of dermatology clinical research and division head of dermatology in the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit and West Bloomfield, Mich., highlighted several molecules first developed as oral therapies that are now under clinical investigation as topical treatments for psoriasis. If successful in phase III trials, these could offer important alternatives to topical steroids and vitamin D analogues, she said at the Hawaii Dermatology Seminar sponsored by Global Academy for Medical Education/Skin Disease Education Foundation.

Steroids can cause skin atrophy, among other adverse effects, when used long term, and vitamin D analogues can cause irritation.

Dr. Linda Stein Gold

The topical treatments in development, if successful, could fill an important need for patients whose disease is not severe enough to require systemic treatments, or as add-on therapies for patients whose psoriasis is not adequately controlled with systemic treatments.

Dr. Stein Gold named Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors as a key group of medicines that block cytokine signaling in receptors involved in psoriasis. One topical formulation containing JAK 1 and 2 inhibitor was shown in a 2012 phase II trial (n = 29) to be well tolerated and to improve lesion thickness, scaling, and total area, with few and mild adverse events (J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 2012;67:658-64).

A different JAK inhibitor, tofacitinib, which has also been studied in oral formulations as a treatment for psoriasis, was also recently shown to be effective as a topical formulation, improving clinical signs of plaque psoriasis in a 2013 phase IIa trial (Br. J. Dermatol. 2013;169:137-45)

Finally, Dr. Stein Gold talked about AN2728, a boron-containing molecule that works by inhibiting phosphodiesterase 4. Topical treatment with AN2728 was seen in a 2011 manufacturer-sponsored phase II study (n = 140) to show significant reductions in thickness and clinical improvement in the psoriatic plaque without dermal irritation. (41st ESDR, Barcelona, poster 244)

Dr. Stein Gold stressed the validity of complementary treatment with both topical corticosteroids and vitamin D analogues in psoriasis – and even topical tazarotene and tar – but said there was an "active future" for the new molecules.

Dr. Stein Gold disclosed relationships with Leo, Medicis, Stiefel, Galderma, Novartis, and Taro. SDEF and this news organization are owned by the same parent company.