BOSTON - Every time Barbara Hamilton steps outside, she covers up. She's ultra-sensitive to the sun. It's one side-effect of the skin condition vitiligo. Hamilton first noticed a white patch on her leg when she was 25.
"When it hit my face, my forehead, that's when I got really concerned about that," Hamilton recalled.
Over the years, Hamilton tried medication and lightbox therapy to restore color. Nothing worked for long.
"I did repigment to some degree, but as I was repigmenting, other areas were depigmenting," Hamilton said.
"Even though so many people suffer from vitiligo, there are currently no FDA-approved treatments to repigment vitiligo," said Dr. David Rosmarin, the vice chair of research and education in the dermatology department at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.
Rosmarin led a clinical trial of a topical cream to reverse vitiligo. Patients applied the cream, ruxolitinib, twice a day for six months. Half of the patients had improvement on their faces.
"We're also optimistic that with continued use, so when you hit the year mark and beyond that there will be even more patients who repigment significantly," Rosmarin said.
Over the past 16 years, Hamilton said her face has depigmented. Although she was not part of Rosmarin's trial, she spends her time in retirement advocating for vitiligo patients.
"We are actively looking for treatments, but until that time, you have to love the skin you're in," Hamilton said.
Ruxolitinib is currently approved in an oral form for some blood disorders. A phase-three trial of the cream will start this winter. For more information on vitiligo and patient support groups, visit VITFriends' website.