Blood test for Ulcerative Colitis patients to predict how well biological drugs will work


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Helping clinicians make an informed choice about the best biological drug treatment. 


Identification of accurate predictors of response prior to commencing therapy will minimize time spent with active disease and enable the clinician to make an informed decision to commence the treatment to which the patient is most likely to respond to.

Dr Sreedhar Subramanian, University of Liverpool

What is this research looking at?

Biological drugs can be used to treat Ulcerative Colitis (UC).  There are two main types of biological drugs, anti-TNF drugs such as infliximab, adalimumab and golimumab, and gut selective integrin blockers such as vedolizumab,  However, there is currently no way of knowing which sort of drug will work best on a patient, so the choice is arbitrary.  If researchers could find a way of predicting which drug type would work best, then bad side effects would be avoided, as well as time wasted while the drug isn’t working, and costs would be reduced. 

Currently, the gene expression in the lining of the bowel appears to be the best way of predicting how a person will respond to anti-TNF drugs.  However, studies have not been done for vedolizumab, and also studying genes in the lining of the bowel involves having an endoscopy, which is very invasive.

A recent study has found that there are two distinct groups of people with IBD whose disease follows two different courses by looking at gene expression in the blood circulating in the body.  The researchers want to use a similar idea to this to develop a blood test which will identify how people with UC will respond to biological drugs based on the gene expression in the blood.

What do the researchers think this could mean for people with IBD?

The researchers hope that they will be able to develop an accurate predictor of how people with UC will respond to biological drugs.  This will help the IBD team to make an informed decision as to what is the best biological drugs for individual patients. This will mean that people with UC will not waste time being on expensive drugs which may not work, and will also reduce needless side effects.

Who is leading this research?: Dr Sreedhar Subramanian, University of Liverpool

Our Funding: £49,579

Duration: 24 months

Official title of application: Peripheral blood gene expression profiling as predictors of response to biological therapy in Ulcerative Colitis

Tags: Biologics