Late last week, Clinuvel attended the first ever Vitiligo World Congress (VWC) in Milan, Italy, to learn more about current issues in treating vitiligo. The VWC is an ambitious project, designed to address both physicians’ and patients’ requests for new therapies and to enhance understanding of the disease. The medical conference is the first of its kind, with one of the three days being entirely devoted to patients.
Several major issues struck our attendees and may have ramifications for our ongoing work in the field of vitiligo.
Firstly, there is now consensus among most leading experts that vitiligo is an auto-immune disease which lies dormant until an environmental trigger causes onset. For many readers, this will not come as a surprise, however it was the conviction with which these themes were presented and discussed that showed greatest progress.
Of particular interest was the vitiligo GWAS study; a global effort to identify possible genetic variations which contribute to vitiligo. Unfortunately, there is a vast area of disease knowledge which still remains uncertain. For example, while it is clear that there is genetic predisposition to the disease, the genetic variations identified in the GWAS study only account for approximately 11 percent of vitiligo cases.
In terms of treatment efficacies, the rate of repigmentation with selected therapies is often encouraging, but long term follow up has shown that treatment effects are frequently short lived and depigmentation eventually reoccurs.
Mental health and quality of life were two main themes central to the conference. Both physicians and those with vitiligo spoke with conviction about the devastating impact vitiligo can have, not only on those directly affected, but also on their families and friends. This was perhaps best surmised by Don Verze (founder of the San Raffaele Hospital hosting the conference), saying that vitiligo was a ‘psychological catastrophe’.
Finally, a number of speakers presented on the challenges faced in the study of vitiligo, particularly how best to design a trial for a therapy or treatment which will produce a clear outcome. Given the many unknowns in vitiligo – causality, onset, spread of disease – it was emphasised that trials must be able to maintain high standards if they are to have a genuine contribution to the effort of tackling the complex disease that is vitiligo.
Did you attend the congress or would you like to know more about the issues above? Feel free to add a comment below.
– More on Clinuvel’s program for vitiligo can be found at http://www.clinuvel.com/vitiligo.
– An introduction to GWAS can be found here. More can be found on recent progress with the GWAS study in China in this recently published paper.
– Results from another vitiligo study, looking at research priorities, were presented at the conference and will be published online here, shortly.
‘MIT Forum hosted at UM’ uploaded to flickr.com by ‘alexdecarvalho’ on 7 March 2007, <http://www.flickr.com/photos/adc/414753294/>.