Purpose: Topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCIs) are an important anti-inflammatory drug for treating atopic dermatitis (AD). However, those treatment responses are variable. In this study, we stratified AD patients by patterns of response to remission maintenance therapy (proactive therapy) with topical tacrolimus, a typical TCI. Thereafter, we explored patient features that predict the success or failure of proactive therapy using TCI (TCI proactive therapy). Methods: A single-arm open-label clinical study aimed to evaluate the efficacy of TCI proactive therapy was conducted in 31 patients with AD. Patients were treated with TCS to induce remission (remission-induction period) followed by daily TCI ointment (0.1% tacrolimus) application for 4 weeks (maintenance therapy period), and twice-weekly application for 12 weeks (proactive therapy period). Based on its results, treatment outcomes were correlated with the patients’ clinical and laboratory findings. Results: Of the 31 patients enrolled in the study, 21 successfully completed maintenance therapy (TCI responders). Among them, 13 completed (proactive-completed group) and 8 failed proactive therapy (proactive-dropout group). At the beginning of maintenance therapy, the serum IgE level was significantly higher in the TCI responders than in those who failed maintenance therapy (p = 0.049). At the beginning of proactive therapy, the mean-SCORing Atopic Dermatitis (SCORAD) score was significantly different between the proactive-completed (11.7 ± 4.6) and proactive-dropout (16.6 ± 4.2) groups (p = 0.025). In proactive-dropout group patients, worsened disease activity correlated well with the elevation of serum lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and Thymus and activation-regulated chemokine (TARC) levels and peripheral eosinophil count. Conclusion: AD patients were stratified into three different response patterns to TCI proactive therapy. Patients with less involvement of IgE in the pathogenesis and inadequate remission induction by TCS may not be expected to respond well to TCI proactive therapy.Key messages AD patients can be stratified into three types according to their pattern of responsiveness to TCI proactive therapy. The efficacy of TCI proactive therapy is lower in AD patients with lower serum IgE levels. TCI proactive therapy should be done after the achievement of adequate remission induction by TCS.
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