Janus Kinase and Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors in Dermatology

A Review of Their Utilization, Safety Profile and Future Applications

Mojahed M.K. Shalabi, BS; Benjamin Garcia, BS; Kendall Coleman, BS; Alfredo Siller Jr., MD; Austinn Miller, MD; Stephen K. Tyring, MD, PhD


Skin Therapy Letter. 2022;27(1):4-9. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Janus kinase inhibitors, also commonly referred to as JAK inhibitors, are a novel drug class that target and block cytokine signaling mediated by the Janus kinase-signal transducer and activator of transcription (JAK-STAT) pathway, thereby regulating immune response and cell growth. Although JAK inhibitors are mainly used for rheumatological conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, their application in the field of dermatology is actively being investigated. Tofacitinib is US FDA-approved for psoriatic arthritis and showing promise for treating psoriasis. Most recently, regulatory approvals for the US were gained by ruxolitinib as a first-in-class, selective, topical therapy for atopic dermatitis and oral upadacitinib for active psoriatic psoriasis. Additionally, abrocitinib and upadacitinib have demonstrated efficacy in atopic dermatitis and are pending FDA approval for this indication. The therapeutic potential of JAK inhibitors in dermatological conditions such as alopecia areata, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, vitiligo, and dermatomyositis are showing promising results in clinical trials. Adverse events for JAK inhibitors seem to be similar to that of biologic drugs. Common adverse effects include increased risk of infections and thromboembolic events. Further investigation is needed to not only better understand the safety profile of JAK inhibitors, but also their full utility within the field of dermatology.


Autoimmune and inflammatory diseases are common and on the rise, affecting 3% to 5% of the Western population.[1–4] These disorders are thought to evolve from a complex, incompletely understood interplay of host genetics, microbiota, and environmental factors that contribute to dysregulated T-cell and B-cell activity against the host, leading to tissue damage.[1] In the realm of dermatology, there have been considerable advances enabling examination of deep molecular processes and immunological pattern analyses that allow us to better understand the pathophysiological mechanisms of autoimmune and inflammatory skin diseases.[5–8] Furthermore, skin biopsy analysis has facilitated our ability to characterize the influencing factors such as cytokines, receptors, and signaling molecules in order to develop targeted therapeutic agents.[5]

Various therapeutics can be used to attenuate the immune response either through direct suppression of T-cell activity or by directly or indirectly blocking cytokines. Glucocorticoids have long been used to suppress an aberrant immune response; however, they have the drawback of eliciting nonspecific immunosuppressive effects. Many cells express steroid receptors and adverse effects of glucocorticoids are common, thus their use in the management of chronic autoimmune or inflammatory diseases should be cautioned given their side effect profile.[1] Cytokine activity can likewise be inhibited by biologic therapy. Most recently, inhibitors of signaling proteins have been introduced for the treatment of psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.[1] These inhibitors target the Janus kinases (JAKs) family of proteins by modulating the inflammatory process through activation of intracytoplasmic transcription factors called signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT).[5] STATs get activated, dimerize, and translocate into the nucleus where they modulate the expression of various genes.

Inflammation of the skin relies on this interaction between cytokines, as well as immune and tissue cells, to propagate the different distinct inflammatory cascades. Because of these unique mechanisms, JAK-STAT inhibitors are gaining traction in clinical development as new potential therapeutics for various inflammatory dermatological conditions.