New method for treating the digestive disease, ulcerative colitis (UC)

Research from Bristol University on a new method for treating the digestive disease, ulcerative colitis (UC) will be presented at an international conference of experts in New Orleans on Tuesday, 18 May as part of Digestive Disease Week 2004.

Lower bowel diseases collectively cause thousands of deaths and cost millions of pounds in related health care costs every year, partially due to a lack of effective diagnostic procedures and effective therapies. 

Dr Tom Creed and colleagues from the Henry Wellcome Laboratories at Bristol University explored the potential of an antibody called basiliximab as a new treatment for UC.  

Steroid therapy is the most effective treatment for UC but up to 30% of patients will have a poor response to steroids.  These steroid resistant individuals present a difficult clinical challenge to gastroenterologists, with few treatment options available after steroids other than removal of the entire colon (colectomy).  Basiliximab, a novel monoclonal antibody, could be an effective alternative.

Basiliximab has been proven effective as a steroid sensitizer in steroid resistant UC both in the lab and in humans.  The Bristol pilot study examined an extended series of 30 steroid resistant UC patients treated with basiliximab.  Twenty patients with moderately active disease and 10 patients with severe disease were treated with a single intravenous dose of basiliximab (40mg) in addition to their standard steroid therapy.  They were then monitored for remission within eight weeks with ‘remission’ defined by an Ulcerative Colitis Symptom Score (UCSS) of less than two. 

The researchers found that:

  • 24 out of the 30 patients (80%) improved their UCSS score with 19 out of the 30 (63%) achieving full remission. 
  • In the moderate disease group, 14 out of 20 patients (70%) achieved full remission, and a further five (25%) showed an improvement. 
  • In the severe disease group, five of the 10 patients (50%) achieved remission, while five required colectomy. 

Dr Creed said: “These studies show that the use of basiliximab can provide significant improvements or remission for patients with ulcerative colitis.  We hope that a larger, controlled trial will confirm these results and help make this potentially valuable therapy available to patients who can benefit from it.” http://www.bris.ac.uk

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