Development of Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis in Pediatric Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

A recent study (A Chandrakumar et al. J Pediatr 2019; 215: 144-51) followed 190 children with inflammatory bowel disease from 2011 to 2018 in a longitudinal population-based cohort in Manitoba and examined the development of primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC).  The diagnosis of PSC was made on discretion of the treating physician; thus, only a subset of patients underwent extensive evaluations for PSC.

Key findings:

  • 9 developed PSC-UC (9/95) and overall 11 developed PSC-IBD (11/190)
  • Among children with PSC-UC, 8 had high GGT (>50) at baseline and only 1 had a normal GGT at baseline.
  • All UC patients who developed PSC were diagnosed withing 6 months of their UC diagnosis.
  • At baseline, 22 patients with UC had an elevated GGT and 73 had a normal GGT.  Thus, about one-third of patients with an elevated GGT developed PSC (possibly more as all patients were not subjected to extensive testing)

My view: This study reinforces two concepts: 1) GGT is valuable as a screening test 2) PSC (often asymptomatic) is fairly common in UC and needs to be considered especially in the first year of diagnosis.  What this study does not do is help us figure out what should be done about children with asymptomatic PSC as there are no proven therapies.

Related blog posts:

More Pics from P’tit Train du Nord Linear Park

Fecal Microbial Transplantation -Evidence for Use Beyond Recurrent Clostridium Difficile

Briefly noted: GR D’Haens, C Jobin. Gastroenterol 2019; 157: 624-36. This review sums up the emerging evidence for use of fecal microbial transplantation for conditions besides recurrent Clostridium difficile infection.

Table 2 succinctly provides list of disease, types of study/evidence, and potential effect.

  • Among gastrointestinal diseases, the authors note that there is an “overall positive” effect for ulcerative colitis, “suggestive” benefits for IBS, GVHD, post-antibiotic diarrhea, constipation, and hepatic encephalopathy.  No effect has been evident with Crohn’s disease or pouchitis.
  • Among nongastrointestinal diseases, the authors note a “suggestive” benefit in autism and metabolic syndrome and “unknown” effect with psoriasis and multiple sclerosis.

My take: The review indicates a need for more studies and the need to define which factors in fecal material mediate the therapeutic effects.

Related article: OC Aroniadis. Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology; 2019. In this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled crossover trial in patients aged 18–65 years with moderate-to-severe IBS-D with 48 patients, FMT (capsule study) was safe, but did not induce symptom relief at 12 weeks compared with placebo.

Related blog posts:

Ustekinumab for Ulcerative Colitis (UNIFI Trial)

A landmark study (BE Sands et al. NEJM 2019; 381: 1201-14) shows that ustekinumab (Stelara) can be an effective therapy for moderate-to-severe ulcerative colitis (UC); it is already an approved, established therapy for Crohn’s disease. This randomized placebo-controlled study included an 8-week induction trial (n=961) followed by a 44-week maintenance trial (n=523) for patients with response.

Clinical remission was defined as a total socre of ≤2 on the Mayo scale (range 0-12) and no subscore >11 on any of the four Mayo scale components.

Key findings:

  • During induction, there was a similar clinical remission rate between those who received 130 mg fixed intravenous dose compared to those who received 6 mg/kg: 15.6% and 15.5% compared to 5.3% for placebo group.
  • During maintenance, among patients receiving 90 mg every 8 weeks the clinical remission rate at 44 weeks was 43.8%, in those with 90 mg every 12 weeks the rate was 38.4%; placebo group was 24.0%.
  • The response to ustekinumab occurred in those with or without previous treatment failure with biologic agents, though response was lower in both induction and maintenance in those with prior treatment failure.  In both phases, at least 59% of participants had failed either or both anti-TNF agents or vedolizumab.
  • In this study, there were similar serious adverse events with ustekinumab compared to placebo.  In the treatment groups, there were two deaths (one from ARDS, one from esophageal varices) and 7 cases of cancer (3 nonmelanoma skin cancer, two colon cancer, one prostate, one renal).  There was one death from testicular cancer in the placebo group. Also four patients in the ustekinumab group had opportunistic infections including CMV in two, legionella in one and HSV in one.

In terms of dosing, the authors note that there was greater improvement in calprotectin values during induction in the group who received 6 mg/kg compared to those who received 130 mg.  At week 44, using more objective and stringent end points (eg. endoscopic improvement), greater clinical benefit was observed with the every 8 week regimen.

Visual abstract from NEJM Twitter Feed:

The following image depicts patients response during the maintenance phase –the lightest color is placebo, followed by every 8 weeks, and then the darkest color is every 12 weeks.  The x-axis measures (left to right) are clinical remission, maintenance of clinical response at week 44, endoscopic improvement, corticosteroid-free remission, and remission at 44 weeks in those with remission after induction.

My take: Ustekinumab is more effective for placebo in patients with ulcerative colitis.  More experience is needed to understand its long-term safety.

Related blog posts:

Proactive Therapeutic Drug Monitoring -Different Time Points

Yesterday’s post outlined expert recommendations for proactive therapeutic drug monitoring (pTDM).  Today’s post reviews a study (NV Casteele et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2019; 17: 1814-21) which identifies optimal levels at earlier time points. The authors note that “higher infliximab (IFX) concentrations during induction therapy  are correlated with long-term relapse-free and colectomy-free survival.”

The authors analyzed data from 484 patients with active ulcerative colitis (UC) from two double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group studies: ACT-1 and ACT-2.

Key findings:

  • IFX levels ≥18.6 mcg/mL at week 2, ≥10.6 mcg/mL at week 6, and ≥34.9 mcg/mL at week 8 were associated with Mayo endoscopic scores (MES) of ≤1 at week 8.
  • IFX level of ≥5.1 mcg/mL at week 14 was associated with MES of ≤1 at week 30
  • IFX level of ≥6.7 mcg/mL at week 14 was associated with MES of 0 at week 30

My take: In pediatric patients receiving monotherapy with an anti-TNF agent, checking earlier levels (week 6, week 8, or week 10) may help avoid low troughs which are associated with a higher likelihood of treatment failure.  This study provides guidance on target levels at earlier time points.

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.

Crater Lake, OR. The blue color is amazing !


Vedolizumab More Effective Than Adalimumab for Ulcerative Colitis

Gastroendonews: Tea Leaves No More: Biologics Head-to-Head Produces a Winner

An excerpt:

In the first head-to-head trial of biologic treatments for inflammatory bowel disease, vedolizumab (Entyvio, Takeda) was nearly 50% more effective than adalimumab (Humira, AbbVie) in inducing clinical and mucosal remission in patients with moderate to severe ulcerative colitis…

They enrolled 771 patients with moderate to severe ulcerative colitis in the VARSITY study and randomly assigned them to receive 52 weeks of treatment with either vedolizumab or adalimumab…

They had failed other conventional therapies, including 25% in each group that had received an anti–tumor necrosis factor (TNF) agent…

  • 31.3% of vedolizumab recipients and 22.5% of those taking adalimumab were in clinical remission after 52 weeks (P=0.0061). Clinical remission was defined as a complete Mayo score of 2 or lower and no subscore greater than 1
  • Nearly 40% of patients who received vedolizumab achieved mucosal healing at 52 weeks, compared with 27.7% of adalimumab recipients (P=0.0005).

My take: This study provides a rationale for vedolizumab to be used as a first-line biologic agent for ulcerative colitis.

Related posts:

AGA Guidelines on the Management of Mild-to-Moderate Ulcerative Colitis

A recent AGA Clinical Practice Guideline on the Management of Mild-to-Moderate Ulcerative Colitis was published along with patient guide (pg 766-67), a brief summary (pg 768) (“spotlight”) and technical review.

  • CW Ko et al. Gastroenterol 2019; 156: 748-64.
  • S Singh, JD Feuerstein et al. Gastroenterol 2019; 156: 769-808.

Summary of Recommendations for the medical management of mild-to-moderate ulcerative colitis: (available from AGA Website, my comments in blue & I bolded some of the recommendations):

1.    Use either standard dose mesalamine (2-3 grams/day) or diazo-bonded 5-ASA [Balsalazide or Olsalazine] rather than low dose mesalamine, sulfasalazine or no treatment in patients with extensive mild-moderate UC. (Strong recommendation, moderate quality evidence) [The article notes several potential exceptions for sulfasalazine: doing well on current treatment, prominent arthritic symptoms, or cost]

2.    In patients with extensive or left-sided mild-moderate UC, add rectal mesalamine to oral 5-ASA. (Conditional recommendation, moderate quality evidence)

3.    In patients with mild–moderate UC with suboptimal response to standard-dose mesalamine or diazo-bonded 5-ASA or with moderate disease activity, use high-dose mesalamine (>3 g/d) with rectal mesalamine. (Conditional recommendation, moderate-quality evidence [induction of remission], low-quality evidence [maintenance of remission])

4.    In patients with mild–moderate UC being treated with oral mesalamine, use once-daily dosing rather than multiple times per day dosing. (Conditional recommendation, moderate quality evidence) [In the commentary, the authors note that 4 RCTs have shown no differences when using equivalent dose once a day compared to divided dose and that once a day promotes adherence]

5.    In patients with mild–moderate UC, use standard-dose oral mesalamine or diazo-bonded 5-ASA, rather than budesonide MMX or controlled ileal-release budesonide for induction of remission. (Conditional recommendation, low quality of evidence)

6.    In patients with mild–moderate ulcerative proctosigmoiditis or proctitis, use mesalamine enemas (or suppositories) rather than oral mesalamine. (Conditional recommendation, very-low-quality evidence) [In commentary, the authors note that oral mesalamine can be given based on patient preference, but that for distal disease there is likely a higher response with topical therapy]

7.    In patients with mild–moderate ulcerative proctosigmoiditis who choose rectal therapy over oral therapy, use mesalamine enemas rather than rectal corticosteroids.(Conditional recommendation, moderate-quality evidence)

8.    In patients with mild–moderate ulcerative proctitis who choose rectal therapy over oral therapy, use mesalamine suppositories. (Strong recommendation, moderate-quality evidence)

9.    In patients with mild–moderate ulcerative proctosigmoiditis or proctitis being treated with rectal therapy who are intolerant of or refractory to mesalamine suppositories, use rectal corticosteroid therapy rather than no therapy for induction of remission. (Conditional recommendation, low-quality evidence)

10.    In patients with mild–moderate UC refractory to optimized oral and rectal 5-ASA, regardless of disease extent, add either oral prednisone or budesonide MMX. (Conditional recommendation, low-quality evidence)

11.    In patients with mild–moderate UC , AGA makes no recommendation for use of probiotics. (No recommendation, knowledge gap)

12.    In patients with mild–moderate UC despite 5-ASA therapy, AGA makes no recommendation for use of curcumin. (No recommendation, knowledge gap)

13.    In patients with mild–moderate UC without Clostridium difficile infection, AGA recommends fecal microbiota transplantation be performed only in the context of a clinical trial. (No recommendation for treatment of ulcerative colitis, knowledge gap)

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

Joshua Tree National Park, Hike to Warren Peak

Experimental Use of FMT for Ulcerative Colitis

In a recent randomized, double-blind study (SP Costello et al. JAMA. 2019;321(2):156-164. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.20046), the use of fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) was effective in 32% in inducing remission in adult patients with ulcerative colitis (UC).

Key Finding:  In this randomized clinical trial that included 73 adults with mild to moderately active ulcerative colitis, the proportion achieving steroid-free remission at 8 weeks was 32% with donor FMT vs 9% with autologous FMT, a significant difference


Importance  High-intensity, aerobically prepared fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) has demonstrated efficacy in treating active ulcerative colitis (UC). FMT protocols involving anaerobic stool processing methods may enhance microbial viability and allow efficacy with a lower treatment intensity.

Objective  To assess the efficacy of a short duration of FMT therapy to induce remission in UC using anaerobically prepared stool.

Design, Setting, and Participants  A total of 73 adults with mild to moderately active UC were enrolled in a multicenter, randomized, double-blind clinical trial in 3 Australian tertiary referral centers between June 2013 and June 2016, with 12-month follow-up until June 2017.

Interventions  Patients were randomized to receive either anaerobically prepared pooled donor FMT (n = 38) or autologous FMT (n = 35) via colonoscopy followed by 2 enemas over 7 days. Open-label therapy was offered to autologous FMT participants at 8 weeks and they were followed up for 12 months.

Main Outcomes and Measures  The primary outcome was steroid-free remission of UC, defined as a total Mayo score of ≤2 with an endoscopic Mayo score of 1 or less at week 8. Total Mayo score ranges from 0 to 12 (0 = no disease and 12 = most severe disease). Steroid-free remission of UC was reassessed at 12 months. Secondary clinical outcomes included adverse events.

Results  Among 73 patients who were randomized (mean age, 39 years; women, 33 [45%]), 69 (95%) completed the trial. The primary outcome was achieved in 12 of the 38 participants (32%) receiving pooled donor FMT compared with 3 of the 35 (9%) receiving autologous FMT (difference, 23% [95% CI, 4%-42%]; odds ratio, 5.0 [95% CI, 1.2-20.1]; P = .03). Five of the 12 participants (42%) who achieved the primary end point at week 8 following donor FMT maintained remission at 12 months. There were 3 serious adverse events in the donor FMT group and 2 in the autologous FMT group.

Conclusions and Relevance  In this preliminary study of adults with mild to moderate UC, 1-week treatment with anaerobically prepared donor FMT compared with autologous FMT resulted in a higher likelihood of remission at 8 weeks. Further research is needed to assess longer-term maintenance of remission and safety.

Related blog posts:

Golden Gulch Trail, Death Valley