Patients suffering from ulcerative colitis (UC) now have access to new therapies for treating their disease. According to UC expert William J. Sandborn, chief of the Division of Gastroenterology at the University of California, as reported in a recent issue of Healio Gastroenterology, effective drugs for UC have been released in recent years, and more are currently being tested.
“It’s never a good time to have UC, but compared to years past, there are some new treatment options and a lot more in the pipeline that give patients options they didn’t have before,” said Sandborn, referring to the wide range of tumor necrosis factor-alpha antagonist treatments recently released, which help UC patients avoid using steroids as first treatment options.
“We’ve had three anti-TNF drugs approved over the last 9 years. That’s a big advancement for the treatment of UC,” he added.
The advancement of these new therapies for Ulcerative Colitis, according to Sandborn, also hinges on how versatile new therapies are in treating the disease, since not everyone reacts the same way to the same treatment.
According to author Shirley Pulawski at Healio Gastroenterology, Sandborn highlighted a group of treatments currently in the product development pipeline, such as the recently-approved vedolizumab from Takeda Pharmaceuticals, which “blocks the alpha-4 beta-7 integrin receptor and blocks lymphocyte trafficking into the gut,” which Sandborn notes is a new mechanism of action for treating UC. Sandborn also added that available data indicated that this drug “doesn’t have significant systemic immunosuppressant properties, so that differentiates it from older drugs,” and many patients in clinical trials showed and maintained an improvement in their condition, experiencing remission and sometimes a complete healing of the bowel.
According to the researcher, some 50% of the trial’s patients had a response to the treatment within 6 weeks, and roughly half of them went through a whole year without a flare-up.
Sandborn also gave the example of tofacitinib, a drug that uses inhibitors to treat the disease, as well as a new research partnership between Nestle and Hutchison Medipharma called Nutrition Science Partners, which is studying the possibility of using a Chinese herb in mild to moderate UC patients.
The launch of new therapeutic drug monitoring tests also represents a significant advance for UC patients. “That’s something new — personalized medicine and giving personalized dosing to make sure individual patients have enough of the drug,” Sandborn continued.
The causes of UC are still being studied. Although UC patients have a different dietary regime, a direct correlation between food and UC isn’t yet established. In fact, the elimination of some foods doesn’t seem to have an impact on their condition, Sandborn noted.
“We’ve not yet identified a food allergen that accounts for a substantial fraction of patients. Clinical trials have been conducted in which patients received no oral food and were solely provided IV nutrition, and UC outcomes did not appear to be altered,” he said.
The increase in the number of UC patients, in Sandborn’s opinion, is the result of modernization as it relates to diet, environmental factors, and lifestyle changes. Now, however, advancements in healthcare are beginning to keep pace with these modern health issues that lead to an increased risk in Ulcerative Colitis.