Objectives: Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) is an important cytokine involved in the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease. The monoclonal antibody to TNF-alpha, infliximab, is effective in treating Crohn's disease. Preclinical studies suggest the importance of TNF-alpha in treating ulcerative colitis (UC). We report the effectiveness of infliximab for UC and examine factors predictive of response to medication.
Methods: Data from all UC patients receiving infliximab at four institutions were analyzed. Disease activity was determined by the Disease Activity Index.
Results: A total of 27 patients with active UC received inpatient (37%) and outpatient (63%) infliximab as single (52%) or multiple (two to 15) infusions (48%). Twelve patients (44%) achieved remission and six patients (22%) had partial response. Nine patients had no response; five subsequently underwent total colectomy. The median time to achieve response and remission was 4 days and the median duration 8 wk. Nine of the 18 patients who responded experienced 19 relapses; 18 of these relapses (95%) were successfully treated with repeat infusions. Steroid-refractory patients were less likely to respond to infliximab therapy than were steroid-responsive patients (33% vs 83%; p = 0.026). No other factors were predictive of response to infliximab. Two patients developed serious adverse events, including death in one case.
Conclusions: Preliminary evidence suggest effectiveness of infliximab in the treatment of UC, including medically refractory severe disease. Individuals who are refractory to corticosteroids, however, may be unlikely to respond to infliximab. A randomized controlled trial is necessary to further investigate the efficacy of infliximab in patients with UC.