Background: The aetiology of ulcerative colitis is inadequately understood, and drug therapy has been empirical rather than based on sound understanding of disease aetiology. This has been a major factor for refractoriness and adverse drug effects as additional complications. However, ulcerative colitis by its very nature is exacerbated and perpetuated by inflammatory cytokines, which are released by peripheral granulocytes and monocytes as well. Additionally, active ulcerative colitis is often associated with elevated peripheral granulocytes and monocytes with activation behaviour and are found in vast numbers within the colonic mucosa. Hence, from the clinicopathologic viewpoint, granulocytes and monocytes are appropriate targets for therapy in ulcerative colitis. Based on this thinking, an Adacolumn has been developed for depleting excess granulocytes and monocytes by adsorption.
Methods: By colonoscopy, biopsy and histology, we investigated the impact of granulocyte and monocyte adsorption (GMA) on the mucosal level of granulocytes and monocytes in patients with active ulcerative colitis. Forty-five patients (26 steroid naïve and 19 steroid-dependent), mean age 44.7 yr, were included. Twenty patients had total colitis and 25 had left-sided colitis. Each patient was given up to 11 GMA sessions over 12 weeks. No patient received additional medications within 4 weeks (steroid) to 8 weeks (other immunosuppressants) prior to entry or during the GMA course. Colonoscopy together with biopsy was done at entry and within 2 weeks after the last GMA session.
Results: At entry, the mean clinical activity index was 12.6; range 10-16. A total of 400 colonic biopsies were examined, which revealed massive infiltration of the colonic mucosa by granulocytes, and GMA was associated with striking reduction of granulocytes in the mucosa. At week 12, 33 of 45 patients (73.3%, P<0.01) had achieved clinical remission (the mean clinical activity index <or= 4). Colonoscopy revealed that most non-responders had deep colonic ulcers and extensive loss of the mucosal tissue. The response rate in steroid naïve subgroup was 22 of 26 patients (84.6%, P<0.005) and in steroid-dependent was 11 of 19 (57.9%, P<0.05 and P=0.02154 for steroid naïve vs. steroid-dependent). Patients who achieved remission could continue with their salicylates. On average, remission was sustained for 7.8 months in all 33 responders.
Conclusions: This is the first report showing a striking difference in clinical response to GMA between steroid naïve and steroid-dependent patients. Further, patients with deep colonic ulcers together with extensive loss of the mucosal tissue are not like to respond to GMA.