Modes of action of diclofenac 3 %/hyaluronic acid 2.5 % in the treatment of actinic keratosis

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The efficacy of topically applied diclofenac 3 % in combination with hyaluronic acid 2.5 % in the treatment of actinic keratoses (AKs) has been demonstrated in several clinical studies, but the exact mode of action is still unclear. This study evaluates the potential molecular and cellular main modes of action of topically applied diclofenac in the treatment of AKs.

Patients and methods:

In this prospective study 20 male patients with AKs were treated for 90 days with topically applied diclofenac 3 %/hyaluronic acid 2.5 %. Before and after treatment, skin biopsies were taken from the treatment area and were investigated histologically and immunohistochemically as well as compared to healthy skin. For this purpose, markers for inflammation (COX-2, CD3, CD8), apoptosis (p53), cell cycle arrest (p53, p21), proliferation (Ki67), and angiogenesis (CD31) were examined.


The immunohistochemical analysis demonstrated a significant decrease in expression of COX-2, CD3 and CD8. Furthermore, there was a clear reduction of CD31 expression as a marker for angiogenetic processes. Additionally, there was a tendency toward a reduction in markers for proliferation and apoptosis.


The efficacy of diclofenac 3 %/hyaluronic acid 2.5 % in the treatment of AKs is probably due to anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic effects, potentially associated with anti-proliferative and apoptosis-inducing underlying mechanisms.

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