Oral JAK Inhibitors
Some of the most exciting novel therapies include several oral JAK inhibitors that target different combinations of kinases and have been shown to decrease AD severity and symptoms. Some of these agents have indications in other disease states, such as baricitinib and upadacitinib, which are both FDA approved for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, whereas others, such as abrocitinib, have been studied specifically for AD.
Although some agents have only been studied in adults to date, others have included adolescents in their core studies, such as abrocitinib, which received Breakthrough Therapy designation from the FDA for the treatment of patients with moderate to severe AD in February 2018. In recent phase 3 trials of patients aged 12 years and older with moderate to severe AD (JADE MONO-1 and JADE MONO-2), both doses of abrocitinib improved the IGA and EASI-75 outcomes compared with placebo.26 Additional studies will be conducted to further investigate the relative efficacy and safety in patients younger than 18 years.
Dupilumab is a fully human monoclonal antibody that inhibits IL-4 and IL-13 signaling without suppressing the immune system. It is approved for use in patients aged 12 years and older with moderate to severe asthma and in adults with chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyposis. It is the first biologic to show positive results in the moderate to severe pediatric AD population. There are now extended data available exhibiting sustained benefit in adolescent patients who were continued on dupilumab therapy, evidenced by further improvement in EASI scores at the 1-year mark.27
Recently, dupilumab received approval for use in patients aged 6 to 11 years, making it the first biologic for AD to be approved for use in patients younger than 12 years. The expedited FDA approval was based on the phase 3 results in which the efficacy and safety of dupilumab combined with TCSs were compared to TCSs alone (N=367).28 In this trial, more than twice as many children achieved clear or almost clear skin and more than 4 times as many achieved itch reduction with dupilumab plus TCSs than with TCSs alone. Three-quarters of patients receiving dupilumab at the subsequently approved dosing achieved at least a 75% improvement in overall disease.28 An additional study is being conducted that includes pediatric patients aged 6 months to younger than 6 years (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier NCT03346434).
Future Directions in Pediatric AD
Our review summarizes only some of the agents under clinical investigation for use in pediatric AD. Early treatment to establish excellent long-term disease control with aggressive topical regimens or with systemic agents may alter the course of AD and influence the development of comorbidities, though this has not yet been shown in clinical studies. The long-term impact of early treatment, along with many other intriguing issues, will be studied more in the near future.