Raj Chovatiya, MD, PhD: Expanding on Vitiligo Research and Treatment

September 10, 2021
Armand Butera

Armand Butera is the assistant editor for HCPLive. He attended Fairleigh Dickinson University and graduated with a degree in communications with a concentration in journalism. Prior to graduating, Armand worked as the editor-in-chief of his college newspaper and a radio host for WFDU. He went on to work as a copywriter, freelancer, and human resources assistant before joining HCPLive. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, writing, traveling with his companion and spinning vinyl records. Email him at abutera@mjhlifesciences.com.

Dr. Chovatiya speaks on the advancements made in vitiligo research, how the disease can disproportionately impact patients of different ethnicities, and how each patient can be properly treated.

Despite a myriad of clinical trials and continuous research, vitiligo has remained an elusive and complicated subject in the health care community.

In an interview with HCPLive, Raj Chovatiya, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor at the Department of Dermatology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, discussed the scope and nature of the vitiligo, the challenges associated with the disease, current research and treatments, and promising clinical trials.

The emotional and mental tolls of vitiligo were addressed.

“The really big thing to think about is that there's just honestly psychological devastation on people that have the condition (and) a lot of major quality of life burden that affects sort of day to day life in children and adults,” Chovatiya said. “I think that's the big part of the condition that really contributes to the burden when we think about vitiligo.”

Roughly 1% to 2% of the global population suffer from the condition. Chovatiya added that it is often difficult to reach a consensus regarding vitiligo due to the vast implications across different races and ethnicities.

He added that a “historical, cultural, racial, and ethnic disparity” surrounding the condition.

Despite this, the past decade has led to a dramatic increase on the study of vitiligo. Some previous studies had found a genetic predisposition in to the disease in a variety of genes related to oxidative stress response that occurred in protein responses, immune system activation, and genes related to melanocytes.

Additionally, doctors have been able to differentiate between segmental and non-segmental vitiligo, which resulted in more varied and intricate studies.

Of the recent treatments for the condition, Chovatiya cited the use of topical anti-inflammatory medications and JAK inhibitors, a relatively new advancement in the fight against vitiligo.

“There's a whole host of trials going on anywhere from preclinical, phase 1, phase 2, phase 3, and even one compound that's pretty close to even getting out there for our patients in the clinic, topical ruxolitinib, which is sort of a more JAK1/JAK2-type selective inhibitor,” Chovatiya said. “But, clinical trial data suggests that it actually might be quite effective, and a topical formulation for our patients with vitiligo.”

In addition to informing patients of available treatments for their condition, Chovatiya noted that a crucial step in vitiligo research revolved around diversity.

He added that a prominent area of commitment in the dermatologic specialty in medicine was striving to represent all patient groups.

In previous studies, quality of life burdens have been recorded as more severe in patients with darker skin tones.

“I think on both ends, you want to have really good representation of people with skin color in these trials to making sure that you're getting people that have some of the worst burden of disease, “ Chovatiya said. “But you're also making sure that you catch individuals who do have lighter colored skin, where it maybe is a little more subtle to sort of understand to see if there are any differences across the entire spectrum.”

To hear more from Dr. Chovatiya on advancements in vitiligo research and how to properly treat individual patients with the appropriate care, watch the video interview in the link above.


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