FDA Approves Breakthrough Alopecia Drug, Cancer Vaccine Getting Closer

The FDA has approved a drug that has proven safe and effective for treating alopecia areata with a success rate of 80 percent, while scientists say a vaccine for cancer is getting closer.

FDA approves alopecia drug, 80% effective in trials

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first stiff Emmett treatment for alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that triggers sudden hair loss, the Dermatology Times reported.

The drug is called baricitinib, (brand name Olumiant), a once-a-day pill developed by the drugmaker Eli Lilly, NBC reported.

There were two trials of baricitinib on patients with at least 50% scalp hair loss measured by the severity of alopecia tool persisting for more than 6 months.

In the first trial of, 25% of patients who received 4 milligrams of baricitinib, and 22% who received 2 milligrams, achieved at least 80% of hair coverage at week 36 of treatment.

In the second trial, 32% who received 4 milligrams of baricitinib, and 17% who received 2 milligrams, achieved 80% of hair coverage at week 36 of treatment.

The most common side effects associated included upper respiratory tract infections, headache, acne and high cholesterol.

Back in 2018, baricitinib was awarded its original approval for treating severely active rheumatoid arthritis, Fierce Pharma reports. Recently, baricitinib was also approved as a new indication for treatment of SARS-Cov-2 in certain hospitalized adults. Lilly filed for the alopecia indication at the end of 2021.

Scientists getting closer to cancer vaccine

Scientists say they are getting closer to a vaccine that could be effective in triggering the immune system to identify and fight cancer cells.

While the development of the vaccine could still be years in the making, experts say the use of such vaccines will become standard practice once they are available, the Washington Post reported.

New approaches to vaccine development include those designed to discern tumor cells from normal cells with a goal of provoking an immune system response against them. In addition, researchers are working to build immunotherapy drugs that would boost the efficacy of cancer vaccines.

Many experts believe our immune system already engages in a process known as “immunosurveillance,” where our bodies constantly search for and squelch cancers that constantly attempt to sprout.

“We have made so much progress in understanding how the immune system recognizes cancers,” said Vinod Balachandran, an oncologist and surgeon-scientist at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “There are dozens of cancer vaccine candidates under study by researchers around the world.”

“Our bodies are probably rejecting cancers all the time,” said Jay Berzofsky, chief of the National Cancer Institute’s vaccine branch. “The ones we detect and that turn into cancer we need to treat are the ones that have escaped from that immunosurveillance. The tumors do it by learning how to exploit the mechanisms that regulate the immune system.”