Repigmentation in vitiligo using the Janus kinase inhibitor tofacitinib may require concomitant light exposure

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Dermatology; UMass Metabolic Network

Publication Date


Document Type



Dermatology | Skin and Connective Tissue Diseases


BACKGROUND: Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease in which cutaneous depigmentation occurs. Existing therapies are often inadequate. Prior reports have shown benefit of the Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the efficacy of the JAK 1/3 inhibitor tofacitinib in the treatment of vitiligo.

METHOD: This is a retrospective case series of 10 consecutive patients with vitiligo treated with tofacitinib. Severity of disease was assessed by body surface area of depigmentation.

RESULTS: Ten consecutive patients were treated with tofacitinib. Five patients achieved some repigmentation at sites of either sunlight exposure or low-dose narrowband ultraviolet B phototherapy. Suction blister sampling revealed that the autoimmune response was inhibited during treatment in both responding and nonresponding lesions, suggesting that light rather than immunosuppression was primarily required for melanocyte regeneration.

LIMITATIONS: Limitations include the small size of the study population, retrospective nature of the study, and lack of a control group.

CONCLUSION: Treatment of vitiligo with JAK inhibitors appears to require light exposure. In contrast to treatment with phototherapy alone, repigmentation during treatment with JAK inhibitors may require only low-level light. Maintenance of repigmentation may be achieved with JAK inhibitor monotherapy. These results support a model wherein JAK inhibitors suppress T cell mediators of vitiligo and light exposure is necessary for stimulation of melanocyte regeneration. Inc. All rights reserved.

DOI of Published Version



J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017 Oct;77(4):675-682.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2017.05.043. Epub 2017 Aug 18. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID