Exciting Advances in Treating Crohn’s Disease

Finding Hope in Treating Crohn's Disease

Hopeful on Crohn’s Treatment

By Kimberly Weaver, MD, as told to Stephanie Watson

As a gastroenterologist, I feel incredibly lucky to be practicing during a time when we have so many amazing options for treating Crohn’s disease. The landscape of therapies for this chronic inflammatory condition is constantly expanding, giving hope to patients around the globe.

Personalized Treatment: Finding Your Perfect Match

When it comes to treating Crohn’s disease, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s all about finding the right treatment for each individual. That’s why I make it a point to involve my patients in the decision-making process. We consider a multitude of factors, including their age, overall health, and even whether they have other skin or joint conditions.

But it doesn’t stop there. We delve into the nitty-gritty details, examining the location and severity of gut inflammation, as well as any complications like strictures. And yes, we even discuss their personal preferences—whether they’d prefer the convenience of at-home injections or the camaraderie of infusion days at the hospital.

Ultimately, our goal is to improve symptoms and quality of life while preventing complications. We follow a “treat to target” strategy, where we aim to clear up both symptoms and inflammation, driving the disease into remission.

Biologics: Powerhouses of Progress

One of the most exciting developments in Crohn’s disease treatment is the advent of biologic medications. These bad boys are like superheroes, armed with the ability to target the specific processes in the body that trigger inflammation. Imagine Iron Man, but fighting gut inflammation instead of supervillains.

We have a range of biologics at our disposal, all approved to treat moderate to severe Crohn’s disease. Each one works against a different protein that causes inflammation, much like a squad of Avengers taking on different foes. Some of the big names include:

  • Adalimumab (Humira)
  • Certolizumab pegol (Cimzia)
  • Infliximab (Remicade)

But wait, there’s more! The biologic family keeps growing. We now have newcomers like:

  • Ustekinumab (Stelara), which blocks the proteins interleukin 12 and 23 (IL-12 and IL-23)
  • Vedolizumab (Entyvio), which sees to it that white blood cells don’t infiltrate the gut

And let’s not forget about the biosimilars—almost identical copies of approved biologic medications. Just like Robin to Batman, these biosimilars provide the same effectiveness and safety as their already-approved counterparts. Some notable examples are:

  • Infliximab-abda (Renflexis)
  • Infliximab-axxq (Avsola)
  • Infliximab-dyyb (Inflectra)

Thanks to these innovative treatments, we’re witnessing a decline in the number of surgeries performed for Crohn’s disease. With inflammation under control, these medications are saving the day and helping patients avoid the operating room.

Seeking the Holy Grail of Personalized Treatment

As the arsenal of Crohn’s disease therapies expands, we’re on a quest to uncover the best treatment match for each patient. The search is on to identify biomarkers—substances in a person’s blood—that can guide us in the right direction. It’s like a medical treasure hunt, searching for clues that will lead us to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

We’ve discovered one such clue: the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) DQA1*05 allele. This marker puts individuals at high risk of forming antibodies to anti-TNF biologics, which can reduce the effectiveness of these drugs. Armed with this knowledge, we often opt for combination therapy or start with a different type of biologic treatment altogether.

While it’s not yet standard practice to test for this marker, who knows? In the future, a simple blood test could help us unlock the secrets of personalized treatment and choose the best therapy for each patient. It’s like discovering the cheat code in a video game that takes us straight to success.

Bright Horizons on the Horizon

Let me tell you, we’re living in an exciting time for Crohn’s disease treatment. We’ve made incredible progress in diagnosing and managing the condition, and we’re getting better at preventing complications. But hold on to your hats, because there’s more!

The world of drug development is buzzing with possibilities. We’ve got some new players on the field with promising therapeutic targets. And guess what? Some of these newcomers are in pill form, making life easier for patients who can now skip the doctor’s office and simply pop a pill in their own domain. It’s like trading in your superhero costume for sweatpants—comfort and convenience, all wrapped up in one.

And as if that weren’t enough, we recently gained approval for a game-changer in the treatment of moderate to severe Crohn’s disease. Risankizumab-rzaa (Skyrizi) is the first IL-23 blocker to receive the stamp of approval. This medication has shown its mettle in head-to-head studies, outperforming other therapies for inflammatory conditions like psoriasis.

Overcoming the Final Hurdles

As with many chronic conditions, including high blood pressure and diabetes, we still have a way to go before finding a cure for Crohn’s disease. The path ahead is filled with challenges, but we’re not backing down.

One hurdle is the high cost of treatment. Biologic drugs can be a financial punch in the gut, often costing thousands of dollars for a single treatment. We need to level the playing field and make these life-changing medications more accessible and affordable for everyone. After all, superheroes shouldn’t just be available to the elite.

And let’s not forget the unique complexity of Crohn’s disease itself. There are countless variations, each with its own quirks and challenges. Sadly, there is no magical pill that can address the diverse forms of the disease. We’re more like skilled artists, constantly adapting and customizing treatments to suit the canvas in front of us.

Unlocking the Secrets: Join Us on the Journey

Our mission is clear: to develop more effective treatments and, ultimately, find a way to prevent Crohn’s disease altogether. But we can’t do it alone. That’s where you, my dear readers, come in.

Clinical trials provide an avenue for individuals with Crohn’s to gain access to the latest and greatest treatment options. If you’re ready to be a hero in your own right and want to learn more about these trials, reach out to your trusted gastroenterologist or visit the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation website. Together, we can make a difference and pave the way to a brighter future—free from the grip of Crohn’s disease.

Note: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare professional for personalized treatment recommendations.