An experimental drug that selectively tamps down part of the immune system can offer dramatic relief to many victims of the painful bowel disorder Crohn’s disease, and might also work against illnesses such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis, researchers have found.
Other drugs are already available against Crohn’s, but their effectiveness is spotty. This is the first study to show that a certain immune system protein could be key to the poorly understood disease.
In the small, preliminary study, researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other sites found weekly injections of ABT-874 reduced symptoms in as many as three-fourths of patients, or three times better than dummy injections.
“A lot of work has to be done, but it’s very exciting,” said Dr. Richard MacDermott, director of Albany Medical Center’s inflammatory bowel disease center and scientific consultant to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.
An estimated 500,000 to 1 million Americans have the disorder. There is no cure. The study was reported in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.