Ever wish you could invent something to make your psoriasis go away? Evan Anderson actually did.
Working as an engineer in the medical device industry, Anderson spent his days inventing bandages, dressings, and other products that would help heal wounds—other people’s wounds. One day, he realized he needed a little help himself. (Want to get more involved in psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis research? Become a Citizen Pscientist.)
“I was showing a nurse how to use our product, using my own leg as a model,” he recalled. “The nurse looked at my ankle and she goes, ‘you know, you’ve got psoriasis on your ankle.’ I go, ‘well, what’s that?’”
Anderson thought he was just dealing with a persistent patch of dry and scaly skin. But when he learned he had psoriasis, he started researching treatment options. He decided on coal tar, a treatment that’s been used for centuries. However, as he found, “it’s not the most convenient thing.” The coal tar would end up in his sock, he said, and leave his skin more irritated and itchy than it was before.
Then he realized he could fix that by using the wound dressings he helped create to keep the coal tar in place.
“Two weeks later, my psoriatic plaque was gone,” he said. “And the really cool thing was, not only did it go away, but it stayed away. My psoriasis was gone for over two years.”
Covering the coal tar with a bandage gave Anderson rapid relief from his psoriasis. It also gave him two important ingredients for the psoriasis treatment device he would go on to invent. The third ingredient came to him out of the blue.
The blue sky, that is.
Anderson, who lives in California, plays water polo, a hobby that often has him outside in the sun. Research shows that sunlight can be a handy treatment for psoriasis—it’s the basis for phototherapy, a powerful and lasting treating that exposes psoriatic skin to ultraviolet light.
It dawned on Anderson that the coal tar dressing, plus regular exposure to sunlight, was keeping his psoriasis away.
What Anderson created was his own Goeckerman regimen. The Goeckerman regimen, which was developed by Dr. William Goeckerman of the Mayo Clinic in the 1920s, requires patients to attend a special clinic where they undergo phototherapy after being applied with coal tar. Its approach to treating psoriasis by using multiple therapeutic methods at one time can be very effective, but it’s time-consuming and inconvenient. Plus, it’s typically prescribed for severe psoriasis, not more mild cases like Anderson had.
Anderson invented a personal device that functions like a wearable Goeckerman treatment. Patients put on a patch that has coal tar in it, and then attach a small LED light device to the patch. Both the patch and the light have magnets on them, Anderson said, which makes them easy to attach. Because they don’t have to hold the light in place, patients are able to go about their normal business while undergoing the treatment. To make things even easier, Anderson also developed an app that tracks how often patients use the light, and when they’re due for the next dose.
In preliminary tests—mostly on Anderson and his friends—treatment with the device has been successful, Anderson said. One friend has had psoriasis on his knuckles and arms for decades. That changed after using the device for about a month, according to Anderson.
“His results are just outstanding. He had psoriasis for 40 years, and after four or five weeks, he’s pretty much in remission now,” Anderson said.
Upcoming clinical trials
Anderson formed a company called Luma Therapeutics to develop and market the device. He’s currently in the process of enrolling a small 10-person clinical trial at a dermatology clinic in Santa Rosa, California. Luma also has a codevelopment deal with the Mayo Clinic—the birthplace of Goeckerman regimen—to conduct a large-scale clinical trial in the future, Anderson said.
Anderson hopes the combination device will offer a much-needed, affordable treatment alternative for patients with mild to moderate psoriasis. He’s involved in the Northern California division of the National Psoriasis Foundation, and has met other patients, like him, who aren’t happy with the usual creams and ointments.
“I just realized that there are a lot of people out there who are searching for something better,” Anderson said. “I wanted to do something that was effective.”
Driving discovery, creating community
For more than 50 years, we’ve been driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. But there’s still plenty to do! Learn how you can help our advocacy team shape the laws and policies that affect people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis – in your state and across the country. Help us raise funds to support research by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or create your own fundraising event. If you or someone you love needs free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease, contact our Patient Navigation Center. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today. Together, we will find a cure.