Usually, when antibodies to infliximab (ATI) develop in combination with a loss of clinical response in an individual with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), this often indicates a need to switch treatments. A recent study suggests that some patients can eliminate ATIs with the addition of immunomodulators (Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2013; 11: 444-47).
In this small retrospective study, 5 patients (18-37 years of age) who developed ATIs were able to continue infliximab therapy after instituting immunomodulator treatment (3 with thiopurines, and 2 with methotrexate). What makes this report interesting, was that these ATIs (prior to immunomodulator use) were identified multiple times and were associated with undetectable infliximab levels. None of these patients had dose intensification of infliximab. After instituting immunomodulator therapy, detectable infliximab was evident and the ATIs disappeared. According to Figure 1, the timeframe for return of response was about 10 weeks in some of these patients.
The authors note that the addition of immunomodulators can gradually eliminate a preformed memory response to infliximab antigen. They also note that ATIs can sometimes disappear spontaneously, though this had not been noted to occur previously when mulitple ATIs levels have been identified.
While these observations are important, a larger prospective study is needed to inform how frequently this strategy could be successful.
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