“Tofacitinib: A Jak of All Trades”

The clever title is derived from an editorial (KE Burke, AN Ananthakrishan. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2019; 17: 1438-40) regarding three recent publications regarding Tofacitinib, a non-selective inhibitor of janus kinase (JAK) enzymes 1,2 and 3 which was FDA-approved in May 2018 for moderate to severe ulcerative colitis. This report was published prior to recent FDA warning regarding blood clots: FDA Warning on Tofacitinib

Two of the reports have been summarized previously on this blog:

The third study examines the safety of tofacitinib: W Sandborn et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2019; 17: 1541-50

Methods: This study analyzed data from phase 2 and phase 3 trials with 1157 patients who had a median treatment of 1.4 years (1613 person-years).  More than three-fourths were receiving 10 mg BID.

Findings:

  • Serious infections were infrequent but there was a dose response relationship associated with herpes zoster infections.  At 10 mg BID,  the frequency was 5% whereas the rate was 1.5% in those receiving 5 mg BID and 0.5% in placebo-treated patients. This is likely related to interference of interferon production related to JAK inhibitor disruption.
  • Sandborn et al conclude that the “safety profile of tofacitinib for patients with UC appeared similar to that reported for patients with rheumatoid arthritis and for patients with UC treated with biologic agents, except for the higher incidence rate of herpes zoster infection.”

The editorial recommends NOT using tofacitinib for acute severe ulcerative colitis (ASUC); it “should be encouraged only in selected patients and preferably in the context of a research study.”  “Infliximab and cyclosporine [should be used] for steroid refractory UC;” however, they suggest that “one can consider initiating tofacitinib PRIOR to patients becoming steroid refractory.  “It could be used upfront on day 1.”

Related blog posts -Tofacitinib:

Related blog posts -ASUC:

Ciutedella Park, Barcelona

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.

FDA Warning on Tofacitinib

From FDA: 7-26-19 FDA approves Boxed Warning about increased risk of blood clots and death with higher dose of arthritis and ulcerative colitis medicine tofacitinib (Xeljanz, Xeljanz XR)

An excerpt:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved new warnings about an increased risk of blood clots and of death with the 10 mg twice daily dose of tofacitinib (Xeljanz, Xeljanz XR), which is used in patients with ulcerative colitis…

Health care professionals should discontinue tofacitinib and promptly evaluate patients with symptoms of thrombosis. Counsel patients about the risks and advise them to seek medical attention immediately if they experience any unusual symptoms, including those of thrombosis listed above. Reserve tofacitinib to treat ulcerative colitis for patients who have failed or do not tolerate tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blockers. Avoid tofacitinib in patients who may have a higher risk of thrombosis. When treating ulcerative colitis, use tofacitinib at the lowest effective dose and limit the use of the 10 mg twice daily dosage to the shortest duration needed

  • 19 cases of blood clots in the lung out of 3,884 patient-years of follow-up in patients who received tofacitinib 10 mg twice daily, compared to 3 cases out of 3,982 patient-years in patients who received TNF blockers

Related blog posts:

University of Virginia

How Quickly Does Tofacitinib Work for Ulcerative Colitis?

The second study reference yesterday:

A recent study (S Hanauer et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2019; 17: 139-47) shows that tofacitinib can work quickly to reduce symptoms in ulcerative colitis.

In a post-hoc analyses of data from OCTAVE induction 1 and 2 (n=905 patients, n=234 placebo), the authors determined that tofacitinib reduces symptoms within 3 days.

Key findings:

  • By day 3, there was a reduction in stool frequency (-1.06 vs. -0.27 for placebo) and a reduction in rectal bleeding subscore (-0.30 vs -0.14 for placebo)
  • 28.8% of tofacitinib-treated patients had a reduction in stool frequency subscore by >1 point compared to 17.9% for placebo.  For rectal bleeding subscore, tofacitinib-treated patients had a reduction by >1 point in 32% compared to 17.9% for placebo 20.1%.

My take: This study reinforces the impression that tofacitinib works rapidly.

Related blog posts:

La Boqueria, Barcelona

Tofacitinib Case Reports for Acute Severe UC and Pyoderma Gangrenosum

Two recent case reports indicate that Tofacitinib may be useful in refractory cases of acute severe ulcerative colitis (ASUC) (JA Berinstein et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2019; 17: 988-90) and for pyoderma gangrenosum (PG) (B Kochar et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2019; 17: 991-93)

The case report for ASUC described 4 patients who received off-label high-intensity tofacitinib.  Initially dosing was 10 mg 3 times a day for 9 doses with subsequent transition to standard dosing.  All four patients had a rapid improvement, though one patient required a colectomy 6 months later and one patient required urgent colectomy after rapid return of symptoms when tofacitinib dose was reduced.

The case report for PG involved 3 patients -two healed with tofacitinib and one improved considerably; the latter patient required dose escalation to 10 mg twice a day.  To understand the mechanism of action further, the authors performed immunohistochemical staining from skin biopsy specimens from two patients and detected “strong staining of phosphorylated JAK-1, phosphorylated JAK-2, phosphorylated JAK-3…in the epidermis.”  Tofacitinib is an oral JAK-1/JAK-3 inhibitor.  In all of these patients, inflammatory arthritis was the indication for tofacitinib.

My take: Due to tofacitinib’s rapid onset of action as well as its rapid clearance, it is a promising agent for both acute severe ulcerative colitis and pyoderma gangrenosum.  More clinical trials are needed.

Related blog posts -Tofacitinib:

Related blog posts -ASUC:

Related blog posts -PG:

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.

Image below is from an unrelated tweet.

Tofacitinib -Where Does it Fit in Treatment Algorithm for Ulcerative Colitis?

A few recent articles provide a lot of practical information regarding implementation of tofacitinib into treatment regimens for ulcerative colitis (UC).

  • S Danese et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2018; 24: 2106–12. Review article on Tofacitinib.
  • J-F Colombel.  Inflamm Bowel Dis 2018; 24: 2173–80. Review article on Herpes Zoster due to JAK Inhibitors (eg Tofacitinib).
  • KL Winthrop et al.  Inflamm Bowel Dis 2018; 24:  2258-65. Clinical study detailing the risk of Herpes Zoster in patients with UC receiving Tofacitinib.

The first of these articles reviews the mechanism of action of tofacitinib (TFB) and the relevant studies showing efficacy for UC.  A summary of the results are listed in Table 1. Some of the reported results –with TFB dosed at 10 mg BID:

  • In 2012, Sandborn et al: clinical response in 61% at wk 8 and clinical remission of 48% at wk 8.
  • In 2017 (OCTAVE Induction 1): clinical response in 18.5% at wk 8 and clinical remission of 31.3% at wk 8.
  • In 2017 (OCTAVE Induction 2): clinical response in 16.6% at wk 8 and clinical remission of 28.4% at wk 8.
  • In 2017 (OCTAVE Sustain):clinical response in 40.6% at wk 8 and clinical remission of 45.7% at wk 8.
  • In all of these studies, TFB outperformed the placebo arm and has had a good safety profile

Most common adverse effects had similar rates in the placebo arm:

  • Nasopharyngitis
  • Arthralgia
  • Headache

Other adverse effects have included pneumonia, herpes zoster (HZ) infection, and increased lipid levels (more common than with placebo group).  Trials in patients with rheumatoid arthritis have indicated an increased incidence of nonmelanoma skin cancer, lymphoma, breast cancer, lung cancer, and gastric cancers.

Preclinical studies have shown that TFB could cause fetal malformations when given at much higher doses.  Though, clinical experience in humans have not found teratogenic effects; this is based on one study with 9815 RA/psoriasis patients and 47 women who became pregnant.

Role for tofacitinib:

  • “Tofacitinib could be used in patients suffering mild, moderate and severe UC…after aminosalicylates (5-ASA)…and as second-line therapy in patients who have been treated with TNF inhibitors.”

Advantages of tofacitinib:

  • Oral administration with rapid absorption
  • Short serum half-life
  • Good experience in large number of patients with rheumatoid arthritis
  • No immunogenicity.
  • Effective in patients who have had previous anti-TNF agents

More on Herpes Zoster Infection:

  • The other two references detail the risk of Herpes Zoster infections with TFB usage.
  • Winthrop et al identified 65 (5.6%) of patients developed HZ among phase II/III open-label, long-term extension trials.
  • The review by Colombel notes that patients with UC have “an increased risk of HZ compared with the general population, and this risk can be increase by the use of immunosuppressive therapy.  JAK inhibitors, including tofacitinib, have been associated with HZ risk…The majority of HZ casees are noncomplicated.”
  • In this review, Colombel details an algorithm for treatment of HZ cases and indicates that adults receiving TFB should consider vaccination to lower the risk of HZ.

My take: A significant portion of patients with UC either do not respond to anit-TNF agents or lose response.  Tofacitinib provides an alternative treatment with a different mechanism of action.  Given the few other non-surgical treatment options, I expect it will be rapidly incorporated into treatment algorithms.

Related blog posts:

Tofacitinib Induction and Maintenance for Ulcerative Colitis

W Sandborn et al. N Engl J Med 2017; 376:1723-1736 May 4, 2017DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1606910

Abstract from NEJM:

BACKGROUND

Tofacitinib, an oral, small-molecule Janus kinase inhibitor, was shown to have potential efficacy as induction therapy for ulcerative colitis in a phase 2 trial. We further evaluated the efficacy of tofacitinib as induction and maintenance therapy.

 

METHODS

We conducted three phase 3, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of tofacitinib therapy in adults with ulcerative colitis. In the OCTAVE Induction 1 and 2 trials, 598 and 541 patients, respectively, who had moderately to severely active ulcerative colitis despite previous conventional therapy or therapy with a tumor necrosis factor antagonist were randomly assigned to receive induction therapy with tofacitinib (10 mg twice daily) or placebo for 8 weeks. The primary end point was remission at 8 weeks. In the OCTAVE Sustain trial, 593 patients who had a clinical response to induction therapy were randomly assigned to receive maintenance therapy with tofacitinib (either 5 mg or 10 mg twice daily) or placebo for 52 weeks. The primary end point was remission at 52 weeks.

 

RESULTS

In the OCTAVE Induction 1 trial, remission at 8 weeks occurred in 18.5% of the patients in the tofacitinib group versus 8.2% in the placebo group (P=0.007); in the OCTAVE Induction 2 trial, remission occurred in 16.6% versus 3.6% (P<0.001). In the OCTAVE Sustain trial, remission at 52 weeks occurred in 34.3% of the patients in the 5-mg tofacitinib group and 40.6% in the 10-mg tofacitinib group versus 11.1% in the placebo group (P<0.001 for both comparisons with placebo). In the OCTAVE Induction 1 and 2 trials, the rates of overall infection and serious infection were higher with tofacitinib than with placebo. In the OCTAVE Sustain trial, the rate of serious infection was similar across the three treatment groups, and the rates of overall infection and herpes zoster infection were higher with tofacitinib than with placebo. Across all three trials, adjudicated nonmelanoma skin cancer occurred in five patients who received tofacitinib and in one who received placebo, and adjudicated cardiovascular events occurred in five who received tofacitinib and in none who received placebo; as compared with placebo, tofacitinib was associated with increased lipid levels.

 

CONCLUSIONS

In patients with moderately to severely active ulcerative colitis, tofacitinib was more effective as induction and maintenance therapy than placebo.