Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up
Font Size

Is a New Crohn’s Disease Treatment on the Horizon?

By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 17, 2012 -- A drug used to treat psoriasis may provide a much-needed option for people with bad cases of Crohn’s disease. 

In the new study, some people with moderate to severe Crohn's given Stelara (ustekinumab) began to see improvements in their symptoms within six weeks.

Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease marked by inflammation and damage of any part of the digestive tract.

Inflammation plays a central role in both Crohn’s and the skin disease psoriasis. Stelara blocks two proteins that promote inflammation. A commonly used class of drugs for Crohn's blocks the activity of another protein that promotes inflammation called tumor necrosis factor (TNF). Treatments in this class include Cimzia, Humira, and Remicade.

But not everyone with Crohn’s is helped by TNF drugs, and some who do well at first stop responding to them.

“About 60% of people with Crohn’s disease will have an initial response to TNF drugs and of those, half will lose their response over the course of the year,” says researcher William J. Sandborn, MD. He is the chief of the division of gastroenterology at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. They can still try additional TNF drugs if they haven't been helped by one, but surgery is often their last resort, he says.

The new findings are “very encouraging and bode well that this drug will eventually become a new treatment option for people with Crohn’s,” Sandborn says.

As of now, Stelara is being studied in clinical trials of Crohn’s disease across the U.S. 

The new study included 526 people with moderate to severe Crohn's that was resistant to TNF-blocker drugs. Some participants were given one intravenous dose of Stelara, and another dose was injected every eight weeks for 36 weeks; other participants were given a placebo.  

Some people given the new drug began to improve within six weeks of therapy. Those who responded to Stelara after the initial dose were more likely to enter remission at 22 weeks.

Six people treated with Stelara developed a serious infection, and one person developed basal cell skin cancer. Both infections and skin cancer are also considered risks with the TNF-blockers due to how these drugs affect the immune system.

New Options Needed for Crohn’s Disease

“The current agents are effective, but not in everyone,” says Gary Lichtenstein, MD. He is the director of the inflammatory bowel disease program at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. 

This study looks at the “[person] who doesn’t respond to TNF drugs, and the new drug may help them avoid surgery,” he says.

Crohn’s is an extremely debilitating disease for many people. “They lose a lot of days from work, it affects their social life, and they are always looking for bathrooms,” he says. “It is a horrible disease and can be very aggressive.”

Today on WebMD

man holding his stomach
Get the facts on common problems.
blueberries in a palm
Best and worst foods.
 
woman shopping
Learn what foods to avoid.
fresh and dried plums
Will it help constipation?
 
top foods for probiotics
Slideshow
couple eating at cafe
Article
 
sick child
Slideshow
Woman blowing bubble gum
Slideshow
 

Send yourself a link to download the app.

Loading ...

Please wait...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Woman with crohns in pain
Slideshow
Woman with stomach pain
Slideshow
 
diet for diverticulitis
Video
what causes diarrhea
Video