Newer Therapies for Cutaneous Sarcoidosis
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- Baughman, R.P. & Lower, E.E. Am J Clin Dermatol (2004) 5: 385. doi:10.2165/00128071-200405060-00003
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Skin involvement occurs in a third of patients with sarcoidosis. The type of lesions can range from the transient erythema nodosum to the chronic facial lesion lupus pernio. For some patients with sarcoidosis, lesions on the face or elsewhere on the body may be the major or only indication for therapy. These lesions are often chronic and the use of corticosteroids may lead to more long-term complications. Conventional alternatives to corticosteroids include antimalarial agents, methotrexate, and azathioprine. Recently, several drugs have been studied for chronic cutaneous sarcoidosis; thalidomide has been the most widely used. Thalidomide has been demonstrated to suppress tumor necrosis factor (TNF) release, which may be important at both the initial and chronic phases of the inflammation of sarcoidosis and appears to be crucial as part of the initial granulomatous response. Thalidomide has a different toxicity profile than corticosteroids or immunosuppressives. The usual dosage has recently been investigated in a dose-escalation trial, with the majority of patients responding to 100 mg/day. Drug toxicity has been reported in the sarcoidosis trials. The most serious adverse effect has been peripheral neuropathy, which often resolves by reducing the dose or discontinuing the medication. Other drugs that have been studied for sarcoidosis include infliximab and tetracyclines. Infliximab is a chimeric monoclonal antibody against TNF, and several published reports have shown it to be effective for the treatment of cutaneous sarcoidosis. The efficacy of tetracyclines for cutaneous sarcoidosis could be on the basis of their immunologic properties. In addition, these drugs have potent antimicrobial activity against Propionibacterium acnes; there is increasing evidence to suggest this may be one of the causes of sarcoidosis. However, most of the newer agents for cutaneous sarcoidosis have only been studied in small series. Over the next few years, it is hoped that there will be clinical trials to determine the role of each new therapy in the treatment of cutaneous sarcoidosis.