Aim: Crohn's disease (CD) is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease characterized by a cellular-mediated immune response driven by cytokines secreted mainly by T helper 1 cells (Th1). In active phases of the disease, an increased production and release of tumor necrosis factor a (TNFalpha) by macrophages and monocytes of the lamina propria has been described. The aim of this study was to detect the presence of TNFalpha within the gut mucosa in patients with active CD by using (99m)Tc-labelled chimeric human/mouse monoclonal antibody anti-TNFalpha (Infliximab, Remicade).
Methods: Infliximab has been labeled with (99m)Tc after reduction of disulfide bound by 2-ME method. In vitro binding assay and biodistribution in animal of [(99m)Tc]Infliximab has been performed to evaluate the retention of its biological activity. Ten patients with active CD refractory to conventional medical therapies were studied. Images of the abdomen were acquired at 6 to 20 h after i.v. injection of about 10 mCi of [(99m)Tc]Infliximab and a week later, all patients were also studied with [(99m)Tc]HMPAO-labeled autologous white blood cells (WBC).
Results: A product with high labeling efficiency (>95%) and stability has been obtained. In vitro tests with stimulated T-cells expressing TNFalphalpha indicated that [(99m)Tc] Infliximab retains its binding activity to cell bound TNFalpha as compared to unlabelled Infliximab. The degree of [(99m)Tc]Infliximab uptake by the inflamed bowel evaluated at 20 h postinjection was much less than that seen with labeled WBC and with a different distribution. Three of these patients received anti-TNFalpha (Infliximab) for therapeutic purposes with good clinical results despite the scintigraphy with (99m)Tc-Infliximab was negative in 2 of them.
Conclusion: Scintigraphy with [(99m)Tc]Infliximab shows the presence of little TNFalpha in the affected bowel of patients with active CD. Therefore, the clinical benefit that patients have from Infliximab therapy is unlikely the consequence of a local a reduction of TNFalpha and the mechanism of action of Infliximab, in therapeutic doses, deserves further investigations.