Optimizing anti-TNF treatment in inflammatory bowel disease

Gastroenterology. 2004 May;126(6):1593-610. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2004.02.070.


Infliximab, the chimeric monoclonal immunoglobulin (Ig)G1 antibody to tumor necrosis factor (TNF) has changed our therapy of Crohn's disease. Infliximab is indicated in refractory luminal and fistulizing Crohn's disease. In patients with luminal disease, a single intravenous (i.v.) dose of 5 mg/kg is efficacious; in fistulizing disease, an i.v. loading therapy of 5 mg/kg at weeks 0, 2, and 6 is advocated. Because the majority of patients will relapse if not re-treated, a long-term strategy is necessary. The optimal long-term approach is systematic re-treatment with 5 mg/kg every 8 weeks. Episodic therapy on relapse also is possible but is less efficacious and frequently is associated with problems resulting from the formation of antibodies to infliximab (ATI). If treatment is episodic, maintenance therapy with immunosuppression (azathioprine [AZA]/6-mercaptopurine [6-MP] or methotrexate) is mandatory. Trial data suggest that systematic maintenance with 8 weekly doses of infliximab decreases the rate of complications, hospitalizations, and surgeries. These effects probably are achieved thanks to thorough healing of the bowel. Infliximab also is indicated in treating corticosteroid-dependent Crohn's disease and extraintestinal manifestations of Crohn's disease. There are no data yet that support its use as first-line therapy. The data in ulcerative colitis (UC) are conflicting and we should await the results of 2 large controlled trials (ACT1 and ACT2) to position infliximab in the treatment of UC. Other anti-TNF strategies have been less effective than infliximab in the treatment of IBD until now. The results with thalidomide are promising but much more research into small molecules inhibiting TNF and other proinflammatory cytokines is necessary. Safety problems with antibody treatment mainly concern immunogenicity leading to infusion reactions, loss of response, and serum sickness-like delayed infusion reactions. The rate of opportunistic infections is increased mainly in patients treated concomitantly with immunosuppression. Other adverse events associated with anti-TNF strategies are demyelinating disease and worsening of congestive heart failure. Malignancy rates in patients treated with anti-TNF strategies do not seem to be increased.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adalimumab
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Certolizumab Pegol
  • Crohn Disease / complications
  • Crohn Disease / drug therapy*
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Hydrazones / therapeutic use
  • Immunoglobulin Fab Fragments
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Infliximab
  • Intestinal Fistula / drug therapy*
  • Intestinal Fistula / etiology
  • Polyethylene Glycols / therapeutic use
  • Thalidomide / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / antagonists & inhibitors*


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Gastrointestinal Agents
  • Hydrazones
  • Immunoglobulin Fab Fragments
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • CDP 571
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • Thalidomide
  • semapimod
  • Infliximab
  • Adalimumab
  • Certolizumab Pegol