[Skip to Content]
Access to paid content on this site is currently suspended due to excessive activity being detected from your IP address Please contact the publisher to request reinstatement.
[Skip to Content Landing]
Original Investigation
July 2015

Clinical and Histologic Analysis of the Efficacy of Topical Rapamycin Therapy Against Hypomelanotic Macules in Tuberous Sclerosis Complex

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Dermatology, Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka University, Osaka, Japan
  • 2Department of Dermatology, Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka City University, Osaka, Japan
  • 3Department of Pharmacy, Osaka University Hospital, Osaka, Japan
  • 4Department of Biomedical Statistics, Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka University, Osaka, Japan
JAMA Dermatol. 2015;151(7):722-730. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2014.4298

Importance  Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is an autosomal dominant disorder leading to the aberrant activation of the mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1. Although the efficacy of mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 inhibitors against tumors in patients with TSC, including facial angiofibroma, has been well investigated, their efficacy against hypomelanotic macules in patients with TSC is unknown.

Objectives  To evaluate objectively the efficacy of topical rapamycin treatment of hypomelanotic macules in patients with TSC and to elucidate the mechanisms of how rapamycin improves the macules.

Design, Setting, and Participants  We performed a prospective, baseline-controlled trial of 6 patients with TSC and hypomelanotic macules in non–sun-exposed and sun-exposed skin at the Department of Dermatology, Osaka University, from August 4, 2011, through September 27, 2012. Rapamycin gel, 0.2%, was applied to the lesions twice a day for 12 weeks. Histologic examinations and blood tests were conducted at the start and completion of treatment. Blood rapamycin levels were analyzed at completion.

Exposures  Topical rapamycin treatment for hypomelanotic macules.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Objective evaluation of rapamycin treatment of hypomelanotic macules in TSC with δ-L (L indicates the brightness of the color) levels on spectrophotometry at the start and completion (12 weeks) of treatment and at 4 and 12 weeks after discontinuation of treatment (16 and 24 weeks, respectively).

Results  Improvement of hypomelanotic macules (in δ-L values) was significant at 12 weeks (mean [SD], 2.501 [1.694]; P < .05), 16 weeks (1.956 [1.567]; P < .01), and 24 weeks (1.836 [1.638]; P < .001). Although efficacy tended to be prominent in sun-exposed skin, we did not observe significant differences (in δ-L values) between sun-exposed and non–sun-exposed skin at 12 weeks (mean [SD], 1.859 [0.629] and 3.142 [2.221], respectively), 16 weeks ( 1.372 [0.660] and 2.539 [2.037], respectively), and 24 weeks (1.201 [0.821] and 2.471 [2.064], respectively). No adverse events were observed, and rapamycin was not detected in the blood of any patient. Electron microscopic analysis of hypomelanotic macules revealed that topical rapamycin treatment significantly improved the uniformity of the melanosome numbers in the TSC melanocytes (pretreatment macules: mean [SD], 25.71 [21.90] [range, 5-63]; posttreatment macules: 42.43 [3.60] [range, 38-49]; P < .001). Moreover, rapamycin treatment induced the recovery of melanosomes in TSC–knocked-down melanocytes from depleted amounts (mean [SD], 16.43 [11.84]) to normal levels (42.83 [14.39]; P < .001).

Conclusions and Relevance  Topical rapamycin treatment was effective and safe against hypomelanotic macules arising from TSC. This efficacy of rapamycin was corroborated as stemming from the improvement of impaired melanogenesis in TSC melanocytes.