July 23, 2003 -- A new ulcerative colitis treatment may give new hope to patients suffering from mild to moderate forms of the disease.
Using an epidermal growth factor (EGF) enema with oral medication is effective in treating the ulcers and inflammation that ulcerative colitis causes, a study shows. EGF is known to stimulate the healing process.
The study appears in the July 24 issue of TheNew England Journal of Medicine.
Ulcerative colitis is one of two major types of inflammatory bowel disease, and the cause remains unknown. The disease can strike at any age but typically occurs around 20-30 years old. Ulcerative colitis causes ulcers in the lining of the large intestine, and people who have it suffer from rectal bleeding or diarrhea.
EGF Speeds Up Healing Process for Ulcerative Colitis
The research shows that the stimulating properties in an EGF enema can help speed up the healing process of the ulcers, improve symptoms, and lead to more remissions.
To determine EGF's effectiveness, researchers split 24 volunteers into two groups and evaluated them at two-, four-, and 12-week intervals. Half of the patients were men. Each participant gave himself or herself an enema and retained the solution for more than 45 minutes per day for 14 days. One group had enemas containing EGF, but the comparison group did not. All of the volunteers also combined their treatment with the ulcerative colitis drug mesalamine, which was taken orally. At the start, all of them had common symptoms of ulcerative colitis, including:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Rectal bleeding
- Loss of body fluids and nutrients
At two weeks, the group taking the EGF enemas showed significant decreases in symptoms, and 10 out of 12 went into remission, compared with 1 out of 12 in the comparison group. Eight of the 12 in the EGF group remained in remission after 12 weeks.
Two patients in the comparison group left the study by the second week because their symptoms got worse.
Researchers say the results are encouraging for people with ulcerative colitis. Most people can be treated with medication, though people with more severe cases require surgery to remove the colon. Surgery is the only cure for ulcerative colitis.
SOURCE: The New England Journal of Medicine, July 24, 2003.