Efficacy and Safety of Topical Hypericin Photodynamic Therapy for Early-Stage Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma (Mycosis Fungoides): The FLASH Phase 3 Randomized Clinical Trial

Ellen J. Kim*, Aaron R. Mangold, Jennifer A. Desimone, Henry K. Wong, Lucia Seminario-Vidal, Joan Guitart, James Appel, Larisa Geskin, Edward Lain, Neil J. Korman, Nathalie Zeitouni, Neda Nikbakht, Kenneth Dawes, Oleg Akilov, Joi Carter, Michi Shinohara, Timothy M. Kuzel, Warren Piette, Neal Bhatia, Amy MusiekDavid Pariser, Youn H. Kim, Dirk Elston, Erin Boh, Madeleine Duvic, Auris Huen, Theresa Pacheco, Jeffrey P. Zwerner, Seung Tae Lee, Michael Girardi, Christiane Querfeld, Kimberly Bohjanen, Elise Olsen, Gary S. Wood, Adam Rumage, Oreola Donini, Andrea Haulenbeek, Christopher J. Schaber, Richard Straube, Christopher Pullion, Alain H. Rook, Brian Poligone*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Importance: Given that mycosis fungoides-cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (MF/CTCL) is chronic, there is a need for additional therapies with minimal short- and long-term adverse effects. Topical synthetic hypericin ointment, 0.25%, activated with visible light is a novel, nonmutagenic photodynamic therapy (PDT). Objectives: To determine the efficacy and safety of topical synthetic hypericin ointment, 0.25%, activated with visible light as a nonmutagenic PDT in early-stage MF/CTCL. Design, Settings, and Participants: This was a multicenter, placebo-controlled, double-blinded, phase 3 randomized clinical trial (FLASH study) conducted from December 2015 to November 2020 at 39 academic and community-based US medical centers. Participants were adults (≥18 years) with early-stage (IA-IIA) MF/CTCL. Interventions: In cycle 1, patients were randomized 2:1 to receive hypericin or placebo to 3 index lesions twice weekly for 6 weeks. In cycle 2, all patients received the active drug for 6 weeks to index lesions. In cycle 3 (optional), both index and additional lesions received active drug for 6 weeks. Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary end point was index lesion response rate (ILRR), defined as 50% or greater improvement in modified Composite Assessment of Index Lesion Severity (mCAILS) score from baseline after 6 weeks of therapy for cycle 1. For cycles 2 and 3, open label response rates were secondary end points. Adverse events (AEs) were assessed at each treatment visit, after each cycle, and then monthly for 6 months. Data analyses were performed on December 21, 2020. Results: The study population comprised 169 patients (mean [SD] age, 58.4 [16.0] years; 96 [57.8%] men; 120 [72.3%] White individuals) with early-stage MF/CTCL. After 6 weeks of treatment, hypericin PDT was more effective than placebo (cycle 1 ILRR, 16% vs 4%; P =.04). The ILRR increased to 40% in patients who received 2 cycles of hypericin PDT (P <.001 vs cycle 1 hypericin) and to 49% after 3 cycles (P <.001 vs cycle 1 hypericin). Significant clinical responses were observed in both patch and plaque type lesions and were similar regardless of age, sex, race, stage IA vs IB, time since diagnosis, and number of prior therapies. The most common treatment-related AEs were mild local skin (13.5%-17.3% across cycles 1-3 vs 10.5% for placebo in cycle 1) and application-site reactions (3.2%-6.9% across cycles 1-3 vs 4% for placebo in cycle 1). No drug-related serious AEs occurred. Conclusion and Relevance: The findings of this randomized clinical trial indicate that synthetic hypericin PDT is effective in early-stage patch and plaque MF/CTCL and has a favorable safety profile. Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02448381.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1031-1039
Number of pages9
JournalJAMA dermatology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology


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