Vol.23 No.3

Review Article

JAK inhibitor tofacitinib for treating rheumatoid arthritis: from basic to clinical


Yoshiya Tanaka1 , Kunihiro Yamaoka1

  • The First Department of Internal Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Japan, 1-1 Iseigaoka, Kitakyushu 807-8555, Japan

1 October 2012


5 November 2012

Published online:

5 December 2012

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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a representative autoimmune disease characterized by chronic and destructive inflammatory synovitis. The multiple cytokines play pivotal roles in RA pathogenesis by inducing intracellular signaling, and members of the Janus kinase (JAK) family are essential for such signal transduction. An orally available JAK3 inhibitor, tofacitinib, has been applied for RA, with satisfactory effects and acceptable safety in multiple clinical examinations. From phase 2 dose-finding studies, tofacitinib 5 mg and 10 mg twice a day appear suitable for further evaluation. Subsequently, multiple phase 3 studies were carried out, and tofacitinib with or without methotrexate (MTX) is efficacious and has a manageable safety profile in active RA patients who are MTX na?ve or show inadequate response to methotrexate (MTX-IR), disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARD)-IR, or tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-inhibitor-IR. The common adverse events were infections, such as nasopharyngitis; increases in cholesterol, transaminase, and creatinine; and decreases in neutrophil counts. Although the mode of action of tofacitinib remains unclear, we clarified that the inhibitory effects of tofacitinib could be mediated through suppression of interleukin (IL)-17 and interferon (IFN)-γ production and proliferation of CD4+ T cells in the inflamed synovium. Taken together, an orally available kinase inhibitor tofacitinib targeting JAK-mediated signals would be expected to be a new option for RA treatment.

Key words

Inflammation, Rheumatoid arthritis, JAK, Treatment, Kinase