A study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology suggested that using a cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2) agonist called lenabasum may lessen the discomfort caused by amyopathic dermatomyositis. Dermatomyositis is a rare systemic autoimmune disease with distinctive cutaneous features frequently accompanied by muscle inflammation, interstitial lung disease, and malignancy. This phase 2 trial examined the potential benefits of activating the endocannabinoid system to reduce the inflammation causing the symptoms.
Study participants included twenty-two adults diagnosed with moderate to severe skin disease caused by dermatomyositis. They received 20 mg daily of lenabasum or a placebo for 28 days, then 20 mg twice daily for 56 days. Their Cutaneous Dermatomyositis Disease Area and Severity Index (CDASI) levels were evaluated relative to baseline as well as secondary outcomes such as quality of life (measured with the Skindex-29) and specific biomarkers.
More than 40% of the patients taking lenabasum demonstrated significant improvements. The study showed that the CB2 agonist lenabasum improved the skin of amyopathic dermatomyositis patients. The researchers noted that lenabasum was well-tolerated and effective. More than 40% of the patients in the study taking lenabasum demonstrated significant improvements on the CDASI, a validated disease-severity scale. Results showed a trend for the change from baseline CDASI to be greater in lenabasum versus placebo starting at Day 43, two weeks after a dose increase. On Day 113 there was a statistically significant difference between the two groups. The researchers noted that the drug was well tolerated.
Current clinical trials are trying to find effective new medications for any form of dermatomyositis. Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) was recently approved last year. Current treatments are limited and often involve frequent and expensive intravenous infusions that may not be effective and can cause significant side effects.