ROCHESTER, Minn. -- A study led by Mayo Clinic suggests remission from Crohn's disease (http://www.mayoclinic.org/crohns/) may be more likely if patients get biologic therapy combined with immune-suppressing drugs first instead of immune-suppressing drugs alone. The study, published in the April 15, 2010 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, found treatment of moderate to severe Crohn's disease with infliximab plus azathioprine allows more patients to achieve remission and mucosal healing than therapy with azathioprine alone.
"These study results are strong enough to change clinical practice," says William Sandborn, M.D., (http://www.mayoclinic.org/bio/10948686.html) gastroenterologist and vice chair of the Division of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester. "They have certainly changed mine."
The researchers in the international, multi-center SONIC (Study of Biologic and Immunomodulator Naive Patients in Crohn's Disease) study recruited 508 patients with Crohn's disease who were naive to immunomodulator drugs. The patients were then randomized to treatment: 169 infliximab monotherapy, 170 azathioprine monotherapy, or 169 infliximab plus azathioprine combination therapy. Patients underwent colonoscopies at baseline and again at week 26. Patients still in the trial at week 30 were given the option of continuing in a blinded extension trial for another 20 weeks.
Researchers found that 57 percent of patients who received combination therapy with infliximab and azathioprine achieved steroid-free remission after 26 weeks. This is compared to 44 percent of patients who achieved remission with infliximab monotherapy and 30 percent with azathioprine alone. Both the infliximab combination therapy and infliximab monotherapy groups were statistically superior to the azathioprine group. These results were durable through week 50 and overall results show comparable safety in the three groups.
Historically, patients with Crohn's disease have been treated sequentially with steroids, then azathioprine, then monoclonal antibodies such as infliximab. The study definitively demonstrates that infliximab-based strategies are more effective than azathioprine, explains Dr. Sandborn.
"Results of this study will provide doctors and their patients with more information on how to use these drugs most appropriately to most effectively treat Crohn's disease," says Dr. Sandborn. "For the first time, we have longer term outcome data on the advantages of combination therapy that will help guide our treatment of patients with Crohn's disease."
Crohn's disease is an inflammatory disorder of the gastrointestinal tract that affects an estimated 500,000 people in the United States. Symptoms include abdominal pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, weight loss and diarrhea. Crohn's disease has no known medical cure. One common therapy used to manage the disease is a series of intravenous infusions of infliximab, which blocks tumor necrosis factor, an important cause of inflammation in Crohn's disease. Azathioprine is an orally administered, small molecule immunosuppressive which has a broad immunosuppressive effect.
Each year, physicians at Mayo Clinic's campuses in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota treat approximately 2,000 patients who have Crohn's disease. For more information on the treatment of Crohn's disease at Mayo Clinic click this link: http://www.mayoclinic.org/crohns/.
Mayo Clinic's Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology has been ranked #1 in U.S. News & World Report's Honor Roll of Top Hospitals since the rankings began 20 years ago.
Dr. Sandborn provided consulting services for Centocor Ortho Biotech during the course of this research and received no personal compensation. Mayo Clinic received reimbursement for the services provided by Dr. Sandborn.
To request an appointment at Mayo Clinic, please call 480-422-1490 for the Arizona campus, 904-494-6484 for the Florida campus, or 507-216-4573 for the Minnesota campus.
About Mayo Clinic
For more than 100 years, millions of people from all walks of life have found answers at Mayo Clinic. These patients tell us they leave Mayo Clinic with peace of mind knowing they received care from the world's leading experts. Mayo Clinic is the first and largest integrated, not-for-profit group practice in the world. At Mayo Clinic, a team of specialists is assembled to take the time to listen, understand and care for patients' health issues and concerns. These teams draw from more than 3,700 physicians and scientists and 50,100 allied staff that work at Mayo Clinic's campuses in Minnesota, Florida, and Arizona; and community-based providers in more than 70 locations in southern Minnesota., western Wisconsin and northeast Iowa. These locations treat more than half a million people each year. To best serve patients, Mayo Clinic works with many insurance companies, does not require a physician referral in most cases and is an in-network provider for millions of people. To obtain the latest news releases from Mayo Clinic, go to www.mayoclinic.org/news. For information about research and education visit www.mayo.edu. MayoClinic.com (www.mayoclinic.com) is available as a resource for your general health information.
VIDEO ALERT: Additional audio and video resources, including excerpts from an interview with Dr. William Sandborn, are available on the News Blog (http://newsblog.mayoclinic.org/2010/04/08/two-drug-combo-doubles-crohn%e2%80%99s-disease-remission/). Password: sonic15
AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert! system.