Based on the findings of a recent study, researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine suggest that the psoriasis drug Stelara may also be effective against Crohn’s disease.
This drug, which is used to treat the skin condition psoriasis, is marketed by Johnson & Johnson.
As per Dr. Bruce Sands, professor of medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, the recent study confirms the findings of an earlier experiment that also suggested that Stelara could effectively fight Crohn’s disease.
Currently, approximately 700,000 Americans have Crohn’s disease, a condition that can cause intestinal bleeding, diarrhea, weight loss, bowel obstruction, and intestinal abscesses.
As there is currently no known cure for Crohn’s, the results of the study offer new hope for individuals suffering from hard-to-treat Crohn’s disease, and the research team views this finding as a step in the right direction.
According to Dr. William Sandborn, lead author of the study, chief of the division of gastroenterology at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, one of the biggest challenges to finding a treatment for Crohn’s disease is that almost one-third of the patients are resistant to some of the common TNF (tumor necrosis factor) inhibitors. These TNF inhibitors help regulate inflammation and also help regulate the body’s immune system. Of the remaining two-thirds, half of patients respond to TNF inhibitors very minimally. Which means, close to 70 percent of the patients don’t respond well to these drugs.
As part of the recent study, researchers divided 526 people from 12 different countries with moderate to severe Crohn’s disease into two groups. The participants in both groups were at least 18 years old and confirmed Crohn’s disease patients for at least three months. The participants in the first group were given Stelara for 36 weeks, while the remaining participants were given an inactive placebo for the same period of time.
Stelara is administered through an intravenous injection at eight-week intervals.
The researchers noted that the participants with moderate to severe cases of Crohn’s disease experienced improvements after six weeks of treatment.
The researchers were able to conclude that Stelara helped improve the symptoms by blocking two proteins — interleukin 12 and 23 — that cause inflammation. The team is convinced that their findings can be a significant first step towards finding a new treatment option for Crohn’s.
The fact that only two percent of entire American population are affected by psoriasis – against 11 percent of Americans with Crohn’s disease – is a clear indication that a link exists between Crohn’s and psoriasis. To put that into a better perspective, there is an estimated fivefold increase in the risk of psoriasis for those with Crohn’s disease. So, what is the connection between Crohn’s and psoriasis? Researchers believe the answer could be hiding in one’s genes. Both the conditions are caused by a malfunctioning immune system and both of them are viewed as immune-mediated conditions.
Which means, with a family history of psoriasis, the person may not only be at risk for psoriasis, but also another immune-mediated conditions – such as Crohn’s disease. In fact, research suggests that for those with a family history of psoriasis, the risk of developing psoriasis and Crohn’s disease increases significantly.
Dr. Sandborn, who is also director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at UC San Diego Health System, adds that the “promising” results of the Stelara study notwithstanding, the psoriasis drugs will be further tested in phase 3 trials. In these trials, the patients who respond well to Stelara will be subjected to additional treatment for one year. The goal is to improve the patient’s quality of life by increasing clinical response to the drug, sending the disease into remission.