A new direction for psoriasis research?

January 03, 2004

Portland, Ore., Jan. 3, 2004 - The National Psoriasis Foundation today hailed research that may eventually lead to additional therapies for treating psoriasis, an incurable immune-mediated disease that affects 5 million Americans. In a paper to be published January 3 in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Dr. Helen S. Young and colleagues at the University of Manchester, in Manchester, UK, provide the first evidence that there are alterations in a gene involving the development of the vascular system that may contribute to psoriasis susceptibility.

"This work offers a new way of thinking about psoriasis, and may open up new approaches to treating the disease," said Gail Zimmerman, president and CEO of the National Psoriasis Foundation. "While therapies focused on the immune system are proving highly beneficial for many psoriasis patients, therapies that target the vascular system might also one day provide relief to those facing this challenging, and often debilitating, disease."

It has been previously observed that aspects of the vascular system, or blood vessel network in the skin, are altered in psoriasis. An essential regulator of vascular development produced by skin cells, called VEGF or Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor, is found in high levels in psoriatic skin lesions. In this study, the authors show that certain SNPs, or single nucleotide polymorphisms, of the VEGF gene itself occur with greater frequency in a subset of people with psoriasis.

In a commentary appearing alongside the Young et al paper, Michael Detmar, M.D., of the Cutaneous Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston writes: "Together with the biological evidence for a pathogenetic role of VEGF in psoriasis, the study by Young et al suggests that VEGF acts as a modifier gene in psoriasis and that therapeutic blockade of the VEGF/VEGF receptor system might represent a novel, pharmacogenomic approach for the future treatment of psoriasis."

Psoriasis patients can hope that drugs that block the activity of VEGF - "anti-VEGF" therapies - may one day be used to treat psoriasis, much the same way that anti-VEGF therapies are currently being tested in clinical trials as a cancer treatment.

"This important paper by Young and colleagues provides additional insight into the multiple genetic polymorphisms that likely determine the occurrence and severity of psoriasis," said David A. Norris, M.D., chairman of the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver and chairman of the Psoriasis Foundation's Scientific Review Committee. "The finding of polymorphisms in the VEGF gene relating to susceptibility to psoriasis reinforces the concept that angiogenesis is an important component of the psoriasis phenotype, and indicates that multiple genes (including those controlling the immune response, keratinocyte proliferation and differentiation, and angiogenesis) might determine susceptibility to psoriasis."

The Young et al paper is called "Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) in Psoriasis of Early Onset."
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About Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a lifelong skin disease that occurs when faulty signals in the immune system cause skin cells to regenerate too quickly--every three to four days instead of the usual 30-day cycle. Extra skin cells build up on the skin's surface, forming red, flaky, scaly lesions that can itch, crack, bleed and be extremely painful. Psoriasis generally appears on the joints, limbs and scalp but it can appear anywhere on the body, covering some people from head to toe. More than 5 million Americans have been diagnosed with psoriasis and/or psoriatic arthritis, a degenerative disease of the joints and connective tissues associated with psoriasis. Psoriasis typically first strikes people between the ages of 15 and 35, but can affect anyone at any age, including children.

About the National Psoriasis Foundation
The National Psoriasis Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization fighting to improve the quality of life of the more than 5 million Americans diagnosed with psoriasis and/or psoriatic arthritis and their families. Sustained by annual contributions from more than 40,000 members as well as corporate and foundation grants, its mission is to educate people about these diseases and their treatments, raise public awareness, and support ongoing research. The organization is headquartered in Portland, Ore. For more information, please call the Psoriasis Foundation at 800.723.9166 or visit www.psoriasis.org.

National Psoriasis Foundation

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