Marc Ferrante was appointed assistant professor at KU Leuven (Leuven, Belgium) in 2013, and later became associate professor. He is also a staff member in the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the University Hospitals Leuven. He is a lecturer for students of Biomedical Sciences and Medicine and a coach for clinical fellows in training. He has previously been chair of both Y-ECCO and ClinCom and was appointed as a SciCom Member in 2019.
Crohn’s Disease is complicated by strictures in up to 30% of cases. Medical management with biologics is often suboptimal and surgical treatment is associated with postoperative complications and disease recurrence. Targeted therapy with endoscopic balloon dilatation (EBD) of strictures less than 5 cm has high rates of technical success (passage of endoscope through the stricture) but variable clinical success (relief of obstructive symptoms), with up to 25% of patients requiring surgery at one-year follow-up . Removable fully covered metal stents are safe for the treatment of refractory strictures but the risk of stent migration is high .
Fatigue is a common yet poorly understood manifestation of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and can occur independently of disease activity. A prospective cohort study of 326 IBD patients initiating biologic therapy (with infliximab, vedolizumab or ustekinumab) demonstrated fatigue was prevalent at baseline (63%)1. Whilst fewer patients reported fatigue with treatment (70% at week 14, 61% at week 30 and 61% at week 54), a third continued to experience fatigue despite achieving clinical remission. This is supported by other studies, where fatigue prevalence in quiescent disease was as high as 36% in Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and 41% in Crohn’s disease (CD)2.
In the last decade, research on the human gut microbiome and its influence on health and disease has taken flight. This has strengthened the belief that the underlying pathogenesis of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) involves an altered immune response to characteristic shifts in the composition of the gut microbiome.
After a 2020 that ended up being all about COVID-19, let’s hope that 2021 will be a normal year where we can meet and network again and put COVID behind us. I recently got my first shot of the vaccination, which was a wonderful experience of what science is capable of in times of need. In Denmark we’ve started vaccinating our IBD patients but vaccine scepticism and uncertainties about the evidence is everywhere and we as physicians are needed more than ever to inform our patients.
Hemel is currently working as a dentist in London. He was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and within a year of getting his diagnosis he was invited to participate in a trial of an anti-TNF drug. Here he gives his view of his experience of being in a clinical trial.
Serum biomarkers identify patients who will develop inflammatory bowel diseases up to 5 years before diagnosis
Torres J, Petralia F, Sato T, et al.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease is a chronic relapsing-remitting, immune-mediated condition with increasing prevalence globally . Despite novel agents targeting different disease pathways, the likelihood of achieving sustained clinical remission and mucosal healing remains low . One of the potential reasons may be that patients seek help and clinicians treat IBD once the disease is in its clinical phase. A sub-clinical phase of variable length may precede the symptoms that lead to a diagnosis and perhaps contribute to tissue damage which, once established, is difficult to reverse with currently available medical treatments.
In this study, Torres and colleagues set out to test the hypothesis that a pre-clinical phase of IBD may well be present and could be identified by proteomic markers .
In the past few years the armamentarium of drugs used to treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) has accelerated, with the emergence of new therapies targeting differing immune pathways (ustekinumab and tofacitinib) and lymphocyte trafficking (vedolizumab). Furthermore, a number of promising new drugs are on the horizon (JAK-1 inhibitors, IL23p19 antibodies and S1P inhibitors) [1, 2]. However, as the choice of drugs expands, so the uncertainty over which drug should be selected by the clinician also increases. Drug selection may be determined by a number of factors such as cost, mechanism of delivery (e.g. oral, intravenous or subcutaneous), presence of co-morbidities (such as malignancy or multiple sclerosis) and presence of extraintestinal manifestations. However, no drug is effective in all patients, with between 10% and 40% of patients suffering from primary and secondary loss of response [3–5].
Nowadays, IBD treatment not only targets symptomatic disease control but also aims to heal the intestinal mucosa  In Ulcerative Colitis (UC) there is mounting evidence that histological healing of the intestinal mucosa is associated with incremental benefit compared to endoscopic healing alone [2–8]. In a very recent meta-analysis of ten studies including 757 UC patients with complete endoscopic remission (Mayo Score 0 or equivalent) and with a minimum follow-up of >12 months, patients with histological remission had a 63% lower risk of clinical relapse (RR 0.37, 95% CI 0.24–0.56) than patients with ongoing microscopic inflammation .
I hope you had a nice UEG Week Virtual earlier in October. My experience with the many virtual symposia over recent months has been mixed, but I think that the virtual UEG Week worked very well, with great interactions from viewers and excellent lectures. Hopefully, we’ll be able to attend the ECCO Congress next year in person – I’m sure that you miss interacting with friends and colleagues as much as I do. But the experience at UEG Week makes me optimistic that this format can also work well.