No Benefit of Combination Therapy with Ustekinumab or Vedolizumab

C Yzet et al. Clin Gastroenerol Hepatol 2021; 19: 668-679. Full Text: No Benefit of Concomitant Immunomodulator Therapy on Efficacy of Biologics That Are Not Tumor Necrosis Factor Antagonists in Patients With Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: A Meta-analysis

In a systematic review, key findings:

  • Combination therapy was not associated with better clinical outcomes in patients receiving vedolizumab (16 studies: OR, 0.84; 95% CI, 0.68–1.05; I2=13.9%; Q test P = .17); n= 933 and n=2378 with combination therapy and monotherapy, respectively
  • Combination therapy was not associated with better clinical outcomes in patients receiving ustekinumab (15 studies: OR, 1.1; 95% CI, 0.87–1.38; I2 = 11%; Q test P = .28); n=856 and n=1926 patients with combination therapy and monotherapy, respectively

Why don’t immunomodulators seem to help? “Unlike anti-TNF, prospective studies as well as post hoc analysis of randomized controlled trial consistently reported a low immunogenicity [with ustekinumab and vedolizumab]…all the prospective studies available to date have shown no impact of immunomodulator on the trough serum level of vedolizumab or ustekinumab.”

Limitation: patients treated with combination therapy in the included studies could be more severe

My take: “This meta-analysis found that overall the use of combination therapy in patients treated with vedolizumab or ustekinumab was not associated with a clinical benefit in comparison with the use of monotherapy.”

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Combating Anti-Drug Antibodies with Immunomodulators in Pediatric IBD

RJ Colman et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2021; 27: 507-515. Favorable Outcomes and Anti-TNF Durability After Addition of an Immunomodulator for Anti-Drug Antibodies in Pediatric IBD Patients

In this retrospective review with 89 patients who developed antidrug antibodies (ADAs), the authors identified 30 who started an immunomodulator (IM) within 3 months of developing an ADA and compared with 59 who did not start an IM. The main IM used was methotrexate (n= 28, 93%)

Key findings:

  • 61 of the 89 patients (69%) had quiescent disease based on physician global assessment at their previous clinic visit
  • The initial anti-TNF was stopped shortly after ADA detection in 36% of the No-IM patients vs none of the IM patients. Thus, anti-TNF agents durability was prolonged in the IM group.
  • Dose intensification was also undertaken at the time of ADA detection: 25 (83%) of IM group and 28 (48%) of non-IM group.
  • At 12 months, steroid-free clinical and biochemical remission on the same anti-TNF occurred in 53.9% of the IM group vs 26.8% in the No-IM group (P = 0.025).
  • Drug levels rose higher (P = 0.003) and ADA levels fell farther (P = 0.037) in the IM group than in the No-IM group
  • Lower ADAs often improved without IM: An ADA level <329 ng/mL had a 76.2% sensitivity and an 83.3% specificity for ADA reversal without IM.

My take: If a patient develops a significantly elevated anti-drug antibody, addition of methotrexate/immunomodulator along with dose intensification increases the likelihood that the anti-TNF agent will continue to be effective.

Related blog posts:

Converting to Monotherapy for Children with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

W El-Matary et al. JPGN 2020; 71: 740-743. Discontinuation of Immunosuppressive Medications in Children With Inflammatory Bowel Disease on Combination Therapy

This study looked at 105 patients receiving combination therapy; the a median duration of combination therapy was 2.1 years, with infliximab and either methotrexate  (53) or azathioprine (52). 89 patients had Crohn’s disease.

Key findings:

  • 11 (10.5%) patients experienced a clinical relapse over a median duration of follow-up of 12.0 months after stopping the immunomodulator.
  • In the patients who did not relapse, the median IFX trough level at IM discontinuation was 6.2; the IFX trough level was 3.8 μg/mL in those who relapsed.

In their discussion, the authors urge caution in discontinuation of immunomodulators in those with clinically-severe Crohn’s disease and those with low infliximab levels.

Related blog posts:

Tons of shells on Picnic Island, Tampa Bay

Disclaimer: This blog, gutsandgrowth, assumes no responsibility for any use or operation of any method, product, instruction, concept or idea contained in the material herein or for any injury or damage to persons or property (whether products liability, negligence or otherwise) resulting from such use or operation. These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician.  Because of rapid advances in the medical sciences, the gutsandgrowth blog cautions that independent verification should be made of diagnosis and drug dosages. The reader is solely responsible for the conduct of any suggested test or procedure.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition

What about Combination Therapy with Adalimumab?

M Matar et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2020; 26: 1627-1635. Free full text link: Combination Therapy of Adalimumab With an Immunomodulator Is Not More Effective Than Adalimumab Monotherapy in Children With Crohn’s Disease: A Post Hoc Analysis of the PAILOT Randomized Controlled Trial

Methods: Participants (n=78, ages 6-17 years) in this study were part of the PAILOT trial; they were naïve to biologic therapy with moderate to severe Crohn’s disease. This was a randomized controlled trial aimed to evaluate proactive vs reactive therapeutic drug monitoring in children with Crohn’s disease (CD) treated with adalimumab. 

Key findings:

  • There was no significant difference in the rates of sustained corticosteroid-free clinical remission (25/34, 73%, vs 28/44, 63%; P = 0.35) or sustained composite outcome of clinical remission, C-reactive protein ≤0.5 mg/dL, and calprotectin ≤150 µg/g (10/34, 29%, vs 14/44, 32%; P = 0.77) between the combination group and the monotherapy group, respectively.
  • Adalimumab trough concentrations and immunogenicity were not significantly different between groups. The rate of serious adverse events was not significantly different between groups but was numerically higher in the monotherapy group. The monotherapy group had three patients undergo ileo-cecal resection.

The discussion reviews a number of studies that have compared combination and monotherapy. One key point is that this study enrolled children who were naïve to biologic therapy; thus, combination therapy may be more useful in those who have failed a previous biologic, particularly if the loss of response was immune-mediated.

My take: This study indicates that combination therapy is likely not routinely needed in children who start adalimumab and who are naïve to biologic therapy. Another finding of interest is the relatively low sustained composite outcome of clinical remission, approximately 30; this outcome combined clinical remission with biological markers. ~30%

Pitt Street Bridge Park, Mt Pleasant SC

In Case You Missed It: IBD Year in Review (Eric Benchimol)

I did not have the opportunity to hear this #NASPGHAN20 lecture but Dr. Benchimol has shared his slides. Link to Dropbox Slides: IBD Clinical Science: Year in Review

Some of the key points on slides (links to articles below):

Some screenshots:

Links to many of the referenced papers:


Related links:

IBD Update -July 2020

X Roblin et al. Gut 2020; DOI: 10.1136/gutjnl-2019-319758 Addition of azathioprine to the switch of anti-TNF in patients with IBD in clinical relapse with undetectable anti-TNF trough levels and antidrug antibodies: a prospective randomised trial. Key Findings:

  • Rates of clinical failure and occurrence of unfavourable pharmacokinetics were higher in monotherapy compared with combination therapy
  • At 24 months, survival rates without clinical failure and without appearance of unfavourable pharmacokinetics were respectively 22% versus 77% and 22% versus 78% (p<0.001 for both) in monotherapy versus combination therapy

RC Ungaro et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2020; 18: 1152-60.  The authors retrospectively analyzed 3178 patients with Crohn’s disease and found that stopping mesalamine therapy in individuals who were starting biologic therapy did NOT increase their risk of adverse clinical events.  They caution that their findings should be validated in a prospective study.

J Wang et al. AP&T. https://doi.org/10.1111/apt.15766. Full Text: Risk factors and treatment outcomes of peristomal pyoderma gangrenosum in patients with inflammatory bowel disease Key finding: “Complete resolution with topical corticosteroids and calcineurin inhibitors alone were low (14% and 13% respectively). Higher rates of complete resolution were reported with anti‐tumour necrosis factor (TNF) agents (63%) and surgical interventions (80%).”

B Verstockt et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2020; 18: 1142-51. The authors found that expression of 4 genes in colon tissue could be used to predict which patients will enter endoscopic remission with vedolizumab therapy.  Given the increasing number of expensive therapies for IBD, the ability to predict likely success with treatment rather than selecting empirically would be a huge advance.

ST Leach et al. JPGN 2020; 70: 580-5. The authors found that fecal calprotectin was overall the best fecal biomarker for pediatric Crohn’s disease (=156 patients); however, FA12  (aka S100A12) at 5 mcg/g predicted mucosal healing with greater specificity (87% vs 70%) –though this is related in part to the cut-off values. For calprotectin to have greater specificity (>90%), a cut-off of <100 mcg/g lowered the sensitivity to 63%. FA12 also performs better in younger children as calprotectin levels are higher in this age group in healthy children.

Expert Guidance on Current Management of IBD (Part 1)

A recent issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology focused solely on the clinical features and management of inflammatory bowel disease. Even for those with expertise in IBD, there is a lot of useful information and concise reviews of what is known.

Here are some of my notes from this issue:

AN Ananthakrishnan et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2020; 18: 1252-60. Changing Global Epidemiology of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: Sustaining Health Care Delivery Into the 21st Century

Reviews risk factors and recommends the following as ways to lower risk of developing IBD for at-risk individuals:

  • Breastfeeding in infancy
  • Do not start smoking
  • Avoid vitamin D deficiency
  • Minimize non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug use
  • Minimize antibiotic use especially for young children and during pregnancy
  • Encourage moderate physical activity, healthy weight, low stress and regular sleep
  • Diet high in fruit, vegetables, fiber, and fish

Reviews the epidemiology and notes that there has been a evidence of a decline in incidence in IBD in (at least) the Western world; however, because of compounding prevalence, it is expected that the number of individuals with IBD will continue to rise.  In Canada, for example, it is expected that the prevalence will rise from 0.7% in 2018 to 1% by 2030.

In newly industrialized countries, it is expected that rising incidence is going to substantially increase the global disease burden. The authors note the following as areas needed in research and clinical care to meet global IBD care burden:

  • tools for early diagnosis
  • early effective intervention to prevent irreversible bowel damage
  • precision medicine to select the right treatment for the right patient
  • need for less costly and more safe therapies
  • simple tools to monitor disease activity
  • primary disease prevention strategies, especially for those at high risk

CA Siegel, CN Bernstein. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2020; 18: 1261-7. Identifying Patients With Inflammatory Bowel Diseases at High vs Low Risk of Complications

This article’s disease-stratification information overlaps with subsequent articles which detail the positioning of therapies for Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) respectively.

NH Nguyen, S Singh, WJ Sandborn. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2020; 18: 1267-79. Positioning Therapies in the Management of Crohn’s Disease.

Some of the information summarized in this article:

Table 2 -Comparative Efficacy of Biologics for Moderate to Severe Active Crohn’s Disease (CD):

  • Infliximab: For induction: OR compared to placebo for remission: 5.90 (2.78-12.51); probability of remission 60%. For maintenance in those with clinical response: probability of remission SUCRA ranking: 48%; 0.68
  • Adalimumab: For induction: OR compared to placebo for remission: 3.80 (1.76-8.18); probability of remission 49%. For maintenance in those with clinical response: probability of remission SUCRA ranking: 58%; 0.97
  • Ustekinumab: For induction: OR compared to placebo for remission: 2.75 (1.76-4.32); probability of remission 41%.  For maintenance in those with clinical response: probability of remission SUCRA ranking: 39%; 0.36
  • Vedolizumab: For induction: OR compared to placebo for remission: 2.69 (1.36-5.32); probability of remission 40%.  For maintenance in those with clinical response: probability of remission SUCRA ranking: 42%; 0.52
  • Certolizumab pegol: For induction:  OR compared to placebo for remission: 1.36 (0.89-2.08); probability of remission 25%.  For maintenance in those with clinical response: probability of remission SUCRA ranking: 42%; 0.48

In deciding therapy, the authors specify factors that help classify as high-risk CD Table1):

  • Structural damage: large or deep mucosal lesions, fistula or perianal abscess, prior resections (especially if >40 cm)
  • Inflammatory burden: extensive disease involvement (ileal disease >40 cm or pancolitis), increased C-reactive protein, low albumin
  • Impact on quality of life: presence of stoma, >10 loose stools/week, lack of symptomatic improvement with prior biologics and/or immunomodulators, presence of anorectal symptoms, anemia, daily abdominal pain
  • Emerging predictors: antimicrobial antibody pattern, antimicrobial genetic peptide signature

Though the authors note a lack of adequate head-to-head comparative studies, they make some recommendations for treatment:

  • For severe disease, they suggest first-line therapy for CD would be infliximab or adalimumab in combination therapy regimen (with infliximab favored for higher disease severity)
  • For second-line therapy, they suggest ustekinumab for most patients in combination therapy or 2nd anti-TNF in those with loss or response due to immunogenicity or intolerance
  • For those with higher risk factors for adverse events (or preference) and moderate disease severity, the authors recommend vedolizumab as 1st line and ustekinumab as 2nd line.  For this same group with higher disease severity, they suggest ustekinumab as 1st line treatment.

Other key points:

  • In terms of risk of malignancy, the authors note that in a comprehensive systematic review of 23 RCTs of TNF-alpha antagonists in IBD, there was NO significant increase in the risk of malignancy with TNF-alpha antagonists.
  • In terms of combination therapy, the authors note that their has been an observed benefit which is “at least partly attributed to achieving a higher biologic trough concentration….no differences in efficacy of combination therapy vs infliximab were observed when evaluating patients by quartiles of infliximab trough concentration; however, currently this represents association rather than causation, and it is possible that superior remission rates drove higher trough concentrations, rather than vice versa.”

Disclaimer: This blog, gutsandgrowth, assumes no responsibility for any use or operation of any method, product, instruction, concept or idea contained in the material herein or for any injury or damage to persons or property (whether products liability, negligence or otherwise) resulting from such use or operation. These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician.  Because of rapid advances in the medical sciences, the gutsandgrowth blog cautions that independent verification should be made of diagnosis and drug dosages. The reader is solely responsible for the conduct of any suggested test or procedure.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

Combination Therapy Associated with Treatment Persistence

Another large retrospective ‘real-world’ study (C Chen et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2019; 1417-27) examined persistence profiles of biologic therapies in newly diagnosed IBD patients.  This study, based on Truven Health MarketScan data (2008-2015) included 5612 patients with Crohn’s disease (CD) and 3533 with ulcerative colitis (UC). There were 1156 persons (20.6%) in the pediatric age range (0-18)

Key findings:

  • Less than half of the patients continued using their initial biologic treatment after 1 year (48.5% of CD cohort and 44.8% of UC cohort).
  • For infliximab (IFX) in the CD cohort, the 1 year continued rate was 47.6% and the 5 year rate was 20.0%. In the UC cohort, the rates were 44.9% and 15.7% respectively.
  • For adalimumab (ADA) in the CD cohort, the 1 year continued rate was 50.9% and the 5 year rate was 9.1%. In the UC cohort, the rates were 45.4% and 7.7% respectively.
  • Combination therapy with immunomodulators (IMM) significantly decreased the risk of discontinuation, especially if IMM was started more than 30 days before the biologic agent (HR 0.22).  Simultaneous starting had HR of 0.32.
  • The major predictors for noncompliance included infection and hospitalization.

Why did combination therapy result in higher medication persistence rates?

  • Potential reasons included improved efficacy by direct inflammatory effects and reduced drug antibodies to TNF antagonists.  It is possible that patients receiving combination therapy had more severe disease and thus less likely to discontinue therapy.

Limitation: This study may overestimate drug discontinuation as some patients may simply have had a dosing delay.

My take: This study shows a higher-than-expected rate of drug discontinuation indicating dissatisfaction related to efficacy, cost or complications. Those receiving immunomodulators (combination therapy) were much less likely to discontinue treatment.

Related blog posts:

Wizard Island, Crater Lake, OR

Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications/diets (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician/nutritionist.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition

Combination Therapy Still Works for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Part 1)

There is speculation that the use of therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) may obviate the advantages of combination therapy. However, there is plenty of data supporting combination therapy including a recent retrospective population-based study (LE Targownik et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2019; 17: 1788-98).

This ‘real-world’ study (2001-2016) utilized the Manitoba IBD database and included 852 persons with Crohn’s disease (CD) and 303 with ulcerative colitis (UC).

Key findings: 

  • In persons with CD, combination therapy (immunomodulator with a TNF antagonist) was associated with lower treatment ineffectiveness with an adjusted hazard ratio (aHR) for ineffectiveness at 0.62.  The ineffectiveness in UC persons was lower at 0.82 but did not reach statistical significance.
  • When looking at specific time frames, among patients with CD, at 1 year, combination therapy the rate of ineffectiveness-free treatment was 74.2% for combination therapy compared to 68.6% for monotherapy; at 2 years, the rates were 64.0% and 54.5% respectively.
  • Combination therapy in CD was associated with increased time to first IBD-related hospitalization with aHR of 0.53 and with lower rates of switching anti-TNF agents (aHR 0.63).  Lower rate of surgery (aHR 0.76) did not reach statistical significance.
  • The choice of immunomodulator (6-MP/AZA vs MTX) and the choice of anti-TNF agent (IFX or ADA) did not significantly influence the overall benefit of combination therapy.  Though, AZA was the main concomitant treatment (92%).
  • 90% of the patients in the study who received combination therapy had received immunomodulator therapy prior to combination therapy.  This is in contrast to the SONIC study in which patients were naive to both agents.
  • 57% of IFX users and 43% of ADA users received concomitant therapy.

My take: Combination therapy has been associated with higher response rates to IBD therapy.  This advantage has to be weighed against potential adverse effects.

Related blog posts:

Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications/diets (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician/nutritionist.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

Wizard Island. Crater Lake, OR

Combination Therapy Study Points to Central Role of Adequate Drug Levels

A recent study (JF Colombel et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2019; 17: 1525-32) examines the effect of combination therapy and drug levels in achieving corticosteroid-free remission at week 26 (CSFR26).

The authors performed a post hoc analysis from 206 patients with Crohn’s disease (CD): 97 monotherapy with infliximab & 109 with combination infliximab/azathioprine

Key findings:

  • The proportions of patients achieving CSFR26 were not significantly greater among those receiving combination therapy vs monotherapy within the same serum infliximab concentrations
  • Mean trough infliximab concentrations in the combination therapy were higher than for monotherapy: 3.54 mcg/mL vs. 1.55 mcg/mL
  • Higher levels of antidrug antibodies were seen with monotherapy: 35.9% vs 8.3% of those with combination therapy.  Antidrug antibodies were detected only in those with lowest quartile of infliximab trough levels.

My take: This study indicates that combination therapy’s higher efficacy is due to  favorable pharmacokinetics rather than drug synergy.  If good infliximab trough levels can be achieved with infliximab monotherapy, this may obviate the need for combination therapy.  The uncertain factor is whether closer attention to trough levels will minimize the development of antidrug antibodies as effectively as the use of combination therapy.

Related blog posts:

Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications/diets (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician/nutritionist.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

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