Topical tacrolimus for the treatment of secondary lymphedema Academic Article uri icon


MeSH Major

  • Cross Infection
  • Hospitalization
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus
  • Staphylococcal Infections


  • Secondary lymphedema, a life-long complication of cancer treatment, currently has no cure. Lymphedema patients have decreased quality of life and recurrent infections with treatments limited to palliative measures. Accumulating evidence indicates that T cells play a key role in the pathology of lymphedema by promoting tissue fibrosis and inhibiting lymphangiogenesis. Here using mouse models, we show that topical therapy with tacrolimus, an anti-T-cell immunosuppressive drug, is highly effective in preventing lymphedema development and treating established lymphedema. This intervention markedly decreases swelling, T-cell infiltration and tissue fibrosis while significantly increasing formation of lymphatic collaterals with minimal systemic absorption. Animals treated with tacrolimus have markedly improved lymphatic function with increased collecting vessel contraction frequency and decreased dermal backflow. These results have profound implications for lymphedema treatment as topical tacrolimus is FDA-approved for other chronic skin conditions and has an established record of safety and tolerability.

publication date

  • February 10, 2017



  • Academic Article



  • eng

PubMed Central ID

  • PMC5309859

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1038/ncomms14345

PubMed ID

  • 28186091

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 14345


  • 8