Antitumor necrosis factor therapy for inflammatory bowel disease: a review of agents, pharmacology, clinical results, and safety

Inflamm Bowel Dis. 1999 May;5(2):119-33. doi: 10.1097/00054725-199905000-00008.


Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFalpha), a proinflammatory cytokine, plays an important role in the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Biotechnology agents including a chimeric monoclonal anti-TNF antibody (infliximab), a humanized monoclonal anti-TNF antibody (CDP571), and a recombinant TNF receptor fusion protein (etanercept) have been used to inhibit TNFalpha activity. Controlled trials have demonstrated efficacy for infliximab in moderately to severely active Crohn's disease (CD) and fistulizing CD sufficient to justify recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. Additional trials have been completed in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Similarly, preliminary controlled trials have suggested efficacy for CDP571 in active CD and RA. Larger controlled trials have demonstrated efficacy for etanercept in RA patients who have failed disease modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) therapy leading to FDA approval for RA. Toxicities observed with anti-TNF therapies have included formation of human antichimeric antibodies (HACA) with associated acute and delayed hypersensitivity infusion reactions, human antihuman antibodies (HAHAs), and formation of autoantibodies with rare instances of drug-induced lupus. Several cases of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma also has been described. Future studies should evaluate optimal timing and duration of anti-TNF therapy, the utility of adjuvant medical treatments during anti-TNF therapy, and evaluate long-term safety and efficacy of the various anti-TNF agents.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / therapy*
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / therapy*
  • Crohn Disease / therapy*
  • Etanercept
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / therapeutic use
  • Infliximab
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor / therapeutic use
  • Recombinant Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / immunology*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Infliximab
  • Etanercept