Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition that affects the bowel and digestive system
A new antibody drug has been shown to prevent a debilitating and painful condition called Crohn’s disease in many people.
A trial involving 400 patients in the UK and Scandinavia found that the drug inflammarib was more than 80% effective in preventing symptoms.
Current treatments do not have this level of success.
“This is an exciting new trial, which suggests we’ve finally got a drug that could offer considerable relief for some patients,” said Professor Tony Rock, co-director of the Cambridge-based Gene Therapy Unit.
Crohn’s disease is a long-term condition in which the bowel becomes inflamed and inflamed symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and bloody diarrhoea.
For many sufferers, it is life-long, and it can lead to complications such as gastroenteritis and pneumonia, and even death.
Other treatments such as steroids and immunosuppressants help, but although they typically have to be taken for the rest of a person’s life, they are a known cause of health problems.
The mechanism through which the drug Inflammarib stops Crohn’s disease has not yet been discovered, but experts believe it may prevent the inflammatory process that drives the disease.
Its efficacy was based on the fact that after two and a half years of inflammarib treatment, almost 80% of participants were free of signs of the illness. That compares with 42% of those on placebo, although both drugs had a 50% success rate.
Image copyright AFP Image caption Crohn’s disease is a painful condition
“It’s great news,” said Prof Rock. “But there’s still lots more we need to work out.”
Crohn’s disease is difficult to treat, and for many sufferers it is the hardest to treat.
For some, however, the new drug could be a “game changer”.
Glen Brooke, 48, had just eight weeks off work when he first joined the trial.
Now he said: “One of the main problems in Crohn’s is having to hide in your own home, and having to walk up and down corridors for six hours a day. With the results showing the effect of the drug, I’m over the moon.”
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Crohn’s patients currently have to go through painful daily diarrhoea
This trial was sponsored by AstraZeneca, whose spokesman said it was “excited” by the results and was already in advanced trials for similar drugs.
“However, and this is a big however, it’s still an early study, and it’s important to remember that early results alone are not sufficient to confirm efficacy in a more well-controlled, large and long-term study,” he added.
Any new treatments are likely to be available within 10 years, he stressed.
AstraZeneca is not the only company trying to develop such drugs. Another of its collaborators, Matrix Genetics, has a more advanced drug called PRO300 in Phase III of development.
Similarly, Novartis has an antibody known as IDX21437, which is also in late-stage development.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Every year in the UK, more than 26,000 people suffer from Crohn’s disease
Despite these treatments, success rates in late-stage trials have not been quite as high.
It’s likely they will need to be made more effective for people who have a greater than 80% response to treatment before they are suitable for patients.
The AstraZeneca spokesman said that was a challenge, but hoped that with continued investment in the field the group would be able to make significant progress.
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