"Speaking of Vitiligo..."

I am a physician-scientist who focuses my clinical and research efforts on vitiligoI am a physician-scientist who focuses my clinical and research efforts on vitiligo, and therefore I think about this disease a lot – all the time, in fact. Therefore I thought it would be helpful to share my thoughts with others who are interested in vitiligo as well, particularly the patients who suffer from it and their loved ones. I want to make clear that while I am affiliated with many vitiligo organizations, my comments in this blog are my own, and do not reflect the opinions of those organizations. In addition, my research is largely focused on finding new treatments, and ultimately a cure, for vitiligo. This work is supported by a number of sources, including pharmaceutical companies, which by definition creates potential conflicts of interest. In full disclosure, here is a list of our vitiligo research supporters. Please know that, to the best of my ability, all of my comments are unbiased reflections of my understanding of vitiligo as both a physician and scientist. I do not permit advertisements on my website, and do not endorse companies or products that may advertise on other sites that may be referenced here.

Cutting-Edge Developments in Vitiligo Clinical Trials

Posted On: Saturday, June 15, 2019 Posted By: John E. Harris Tags: Tofacitinib, Vitiligo, Vitiligo Research, Vitiligo Treatment

I am excited to announce outstanding results of the first large, randomized clinical trial to test a treatment for vitiligo! For some background, we and a few others reported that the JAK inhibitors tofacitinib and ruxolitinib were effective treatments in a small number of patients with vitiligo. The rationale for using these treatments was based on the cytokine signaling pathways responsible for driving vitiligo. Read more...

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Recap of 2018, our most exciting year yet!

Posted On: Friday, December 28, 2018 Posted By: John E. Harris Tags: Vitiligo, Vitiligo Research, Vitiligo Treatment

Happy New Year from Vitiligo Clinic & Research Center

This has been a tremendous year for us in the Vitiligo Clinic and Research Center at UMass Medical School. It’s fun to reflect at this time and to think about the hard work done for vitiligo and its potential global impact! I am currently on a much-needed vacation with my wife’s family near Chicago, and I’m using some of my downtime to think and write this summary about the year. There were some ups and downs, but mostly ups, and next year promises to bring even more excitement. Read more...

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All Hands-On Deck

Posted On: Tuesday, November 27, 2018 Posted By: John E. Harris Tags: Vitiligo, Vitiligo Research, Vitiligo Treatment

This blog post in response to multiple exciting and generous requests to help support our research effort to find a cure for vitiligo. I have been touched by the unsolicited outreach by readers all over the world who are just as passionate as we are about improving the lives of tens of millions with vitiligo. In response, we have set up a user-friendly and safe method to donate to support our work. At the end of the blog post there is a link to do just that. I’ll also outline what we have done so far with donor support, and tell you where we’d like to go in the future if we have sufficient resources to do it. You can help!

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Our new research study in Science Translational Medicine describes a new treatment that may have long-term benefit in vitiligo patients

Posted On: Monday, August 06, 2018 Posted By: John E. Harris Tags: Vitiligo, Vitiligo Research, Vitiligo Treatment

We recently published our research study in the journal Science Translational Medicine in which we found a new immune pathway that could be targeted as a treatment for the disease. You can read the actual article hereif you’re interested, although it’s pretty dense reading. For those who would like a lighter summary of what we found, you can read the rest of this blog post. 

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World Vitiligo Day 2018 Conference (June 22-24)

Posted On: Monday, June 25, 2018 Posted By: John E. Harris Tags: Vitiligo, Vitiligo Research, Vitiligo Treatment Comments count

Vitiligo update: Bring on the new year in 2018!

Posted On: Tuesday, January 02, 2018 Posted By: John E. Harris Tags: Vitiligo, Vitiligo Research, Vitiligo Treatment

Happy New Year! A lot has happened in our lives in 2017, and the vitiligo community is no exception. While I have become more and more busy since I started this blog, I do recognize its importance to those who read it, and heard the requests for updates on vitiligo research and clinical care. So here is one, looking back at 2017 and forward to 2018!

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Vitiligo is important, treatable, and has an exciting future

Posted On: Wednesday, August 02, 2017 Posted By: John E. Harris Tags: Vitiligo, Vitiligo Research, Vitiligo Treatment

Watch webinar discusses common, uncommon, and rare presentations of vitiligo; available treatment options for vitiligo and their limitations; and new research discoveries to predict future targeted treatments for vitiligo.

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World Vitiligo Day 2017 in Detroit!

Posted On: Sunday, June 25, 2017 Posted By: John E. Harris Tags: Vitiligo, Vitiligo Research, Vitiligo Treatment

I am sitting in a coffee shop in the Detroit Metro Airport on World Vitiligo Day, June 25th, 2017, drinking a caramel latte while I wait for my flight back to Boston, which will be followed by about an hour drive home. I’m exhausted, but it’s a “good kind of exhausted”, a phrase I’ve heard from others who attended the World Vitiligo Day meeting in Detroit, MI. Another phrase I heard there was “I’m on an incredible high that will last for the next few weeks, at least”. I understand exactly what they mean, and I’m writing this post now so that I can accurately record the incredible events that unfolded this weekend. 

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Answer to what causes vitiligo?

Posted On: Monday, January 16, 2017 Posted By: John E. Harris Tags: Vitiligo, Vitiligo Research

Do we truly know what causes vitiligo? Is it really an autoimmune disease? Isn’t the cause “unknown”, and aren’t there many alternative theories that are equally likely? These questions drive me nuts, but people keep asking them, so I thought I should probably take the time to answer. In fact, we know more about what causes vitiligo than any other autoimmune disease, including diabetes, thyroiditis, lupus, and others. It’s true that there have been many different ideas in the past about what causes vitiligo, from autoimmunity to cellular stress, chemicals, nerves, and genetics. And many scientists have spent a long time arguing about which one was correct. It turns out that most of them are correct, and work together to cause the clinical disease we call vitiligo. 

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Vitiligo genetics gets another boost!

Posted On: Friday, January 13, 2017 Posted By: John E. Harris Tags: Vitiligo, Vitiligo Research

Dr. Richard Spritz, a pediatrician and geneticist at the University of Colorado, is an interesting guy who not only does important research in genetics, but also does vintage car racing as a hobby. He recently published his third genomewide association study (GWAS) to identify genes involved in the development of vitiligo. It was a beautiful study, which added another 23 risk alleles (genes that increase the risk of getting disease), increasing the total known vitiligo susceptibility genes to about 50. This effort represents many years of work, and collaboration with physicians from all over the world who helped to recruit patients to donate their DNA, enabling the studies to identify these genes. I spend a lot of time discussing Dr. Spritz’s results with him at meetings, and thought it might be best to let him tell you about these latest results in his own words. So I sat down with him and asked him a few questions.

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The Vitiligo Clinic and Research Center is Growing!

Posted On: Friday, January 06, 2017 Posted By: John E. Harris Tags: Vitiligo, Vitiligo Research, Vitiligo Treatment

The Vitiligo Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) is growing, with more and more patients calling to schedule appointments with us from all over the country, and all over the world. With only my single vitiligo clinic on Tuesday afternoons, the wait to get an appointment in our Clinic is 6 months or more. In addition, we are now officially offering the Melanocyte Keratinocyte Transplant Procedure (MKTP) for patients with stable vitiligo, and represent one of only 3 or 4 centers in the country that offers this treatment. We also added excimer laser treatment for our patients, so we knew we needed to expand the clinic to accommodate all of the vitiligo patients who wanted our help. And so I am excited to formally announce the addition of three new doctors to the Vitiligo Clinic and Research Center! 

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Vitiligo JAK Inhibitor Update

Posted On: Wednesday, December 28, 2016 Posted By: John E. Harris Tags: Tofacitinib, Vitiligo, Vitiligo Research, Vitiligo Treatment

Ever since the report from Yale published about a vitiligo patient who improved after using Xeljanz (tofacitinib)and then our report about Jakafi (ruxolitinib) in another patient, there has been a lot of buzz around the use of JAK inhibitors in vitiligo. Many have asked me for updates on these new drugs for vitiligo by commenting below the blog posts, or tweeting, or emailing me, or stopping me in the hall, pulling me aside at conferences, etc. There have been no published reports since these first two, and I have to be careful speaking publicly about ongoing studies, discussions with companies, etc. But I will do my best to update you on the potential for these drugs in vitiligo.

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Vitiligo Simvastatin Clinical Trial Results

Posted On: Saturday, December 24, 2016 Posted By: John E. Harris Tags: Vitiligo, Vitiligo Research, Vitiligo Treatment

Many of you have commented on this blog and sent emails asking about the results of a trial we conducted a number of years ago to test simvastatin (brand name Zocor) as a treatment for vitiligo. Before we became aware of the newer types of immune therapies, we were hopeful that existing, safe, and cheaper ones might be able to turn off autoimmunity and treat vitiligo. We first became interested in testing simvastatin after some observations we initially made in mice that get vitiligo. It actually worked in the mice, so we initiated a trial to test it in human vitiligo patients. . .

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Vitiligo research update in Rome!

Posted On: Tuesday, December 13, 2016 Posted By: John E. Harris Tags: Vitiligo, Vitiligo Research

I just returned from the first Vitiligo International Symposium (VIS) held in Rome, Italy, where physicians and scientist from all over the world met to discuss their research. It was a great success, with over 200 participants from 32 different countries, including Italy (of course), the USA, the UK, Australia, South Africa, China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Germany, Egypt, Brazil, France, Morocco, Canada, India, Belgium, Taiwan, and others. The VIS was a 2-day conference that covered every aspect of vitiligo, including clinical treatments, how to measure improvement, basic science research to find out what causes vitiligo and how to find new treatments, etc.

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Interview with DermTube.com and Adam Friedman, MD

Posted On: Monday, May 23, 2016 Posted By: John E. Harris Tags: Vitiligo, Vitiligo Research, Vitiligo Treatment

Recent Interview with DermTube.com "Ask an Expert", hosted by Adam Friedman, MD about the need to understand vitiligo as a skin disease, not simply a cosmetic concern, and stresses the importance of recognizing the impact of the disease on quality of life and the patient's psyche.

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Vitiligo: Truth, Hope and Change

Posted On: Thursday, March 03, 2016 Posted By: John E. Harris Tags: Vitiligo, Vitiligo Research, Vitiligo Treatment

Well, here it is, the vitiligo awareness video that we began working on last September, 2015! “Vitiligo: Truth, Hope and Change”, and features a variety of vitiligo patients, their family members, and physician experts. It is touching, informative, and inspirational – take a look!

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Clinuvel reports that afamelanotide (Scenesse) continues to be promising in a small 2nd trial conducted in Singapore

Posted On: Monday, January 04, 2016 Posted By: John E. Harris Tags: Vitiligo, Vitiligo Research, Vitiligo Treatment

I previously blogged about a trial conducted in the US to test the ability of afamelanotide (Scenesse) to improve the response of vitiligo patients to narrow band UVB (nbUVB). More recently, Clinuvel conducted a smaller clinical trial at the National Skin Center in Singapore, and the results are promising.

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Ruxolitinib (Jakafi) is a new drug that worked for a patient with vitiligo!

Posted On: Monday, December 21, 2015 Posted By: John E. Harris Tags: Tofacitinib, Vitiligo, Vitiligo Research, Vitiligo Treatment

We recently published a report about a vitiligo patient who quickly improved after taking ruxolitinib (Jakafi), a drug that inhibits Janus Kinases (JAKs), which are important for signals that tell the immune cells where to go and what to do. This result is really exciting, because it is an oral drug that had a very rapid effect on vitiligo, improving the patient’s facial pigmentation from less than 1% to over 50% in just 4-5 months. We hypothesized that it might be effective for vitiligo because it blocks a pathway in the immune system that we have found to be critical for vitiligo.

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Summary of the vitiligo patient meeting in Orange, CA on September 27th, 2015

Posted On: Tuesday, October 20, 2015 Posted By: John E. Harris Tags: Vitiligo, Vitiligo Research, Vitiligo Treatment

I previously posted that we were organizing a meeting specifically for vitiligo patients in Orange, CA titled Advances in Vitiligo Research and Care, where experts from all over the world would speak about vitiligo, what causes it, how to treat it, and the progress that has been made through research. But, many couldn’t make it to the meeting, and I promised to write a summary. Here it is!

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World Vitiligo Day 2015!

Posted On: Thursday, June 25, 2015 Posted By: John E. Harris Tags: Vitiligo, Vitiligo Research, Vitiligo Treatment

Today, June 25th, 2015, is World Vitiligo Day, and I am going to tell you how I spent my day! I had the honor and pleasure to stand with our Boston vitiligo support group, VitFriends, on the steps of the State House in Boston talking to passersby about vitiligo to raise awareness of the disease. It was sunny and HOT, but there was a lot of foot traffic during lunch hour, and we educated some and also met new friends with the disease. Then we were invited into the State House to meet with State Representative Gloria L. Fox, who listened intently to our concerns about vitiligo. We are excited to consider her the newest member of our team to help develop a plan to change the way people with vitiligo are viewed and treated in Massachusetts, the United States, and around the world.

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Vitiligo patient meeting in Orange, CA - Advances in Vitiligo Research and Care

Posted On: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 Posted By: John E. Harris Tags: Vitiligo, Vitiligo Research, Vitiligo Treatment

We are organizing a meeting specifically designed for vitiligo patients! Dermatologists and scientists who have particular expertise in vitiligo will be speaking about a multitude of topics, from explaining the importance of their research, to how to treat vitiligo and work with your health insurance company to get important treatments covered. 

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