Combination Therapy with Adalimumab -Is it Helpful?

A recent study (JM Chalbhoub et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2017; 23: 1316-27) performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine the effectiveness of Adalimumab (ADA) combination therapy compared with monotherapy.  With infliximab (IFX), the SONIC study, showed that combination therapy with an immunomodulator (IMM) (azathioprine) improved response; combination therapy resulted in reduced immunogenicity, lower rates of infusion reactions, and higher IFX levels.

With the advent of widespread use of therapeutic drug monitoring, some have questioned the need for combination therapy with IFX.  The need for combination therapy for ADA is also a matter of debate.  ADA has less immunogenicity than IFX and it is unclear if combination therapy will improve outcomes. There have been conflicting studies regarding combination therapy with ADA, prompting the current meta-analysis.

The authors identified 24 articles for inclusion from an initial pool of 1194. Key findings:

  • No significant difference between combination therapy and monotherapy was noted for induction of remission (OR 0.86) or response (OR 1.01). The induction of remission is based on data from 3096 patients (1400 on combination treatment).
  • No difference was noted for maintenance of remission (OR 0.97) or response (OR 0.91). The maintenance of remission is based on data from 1885 patients (859 on combination treatment).
  • Patients receiving combination therapy had lower odds of developing antidrug antibodies (OR 0.24)
  • Subgroup analysis in anti-TNF experienced patients showed improved successful induction of remission (OR 1.26) but also more frequent opportunistic infections (OR 2.44)

Overall, the authors conclude that “combination of ADA and immunomodulators does not seem superior to ADA monotherapy for induction and maintenance of remission and response to Crohn’s disease.” They do comment on the recent DIAMOND study which was a randomized open-label top-down strategy trial in anti-TNF-naive and IMM-naïve patients.  While no overall advantage of combination therapy was evident, better endoscopic response (84% vs. 64% with monotherapy) was seen at 26 weeks (but not at 52 weeks).

This study has several limitations.  Overall, there were a small number of randomized trials and the trials had significant heterogeneity.

My take (borrowed from authors): “It is unclear whether the addition of IMM impacts the efficacy of a less immunogenic anti-TNF biologic such as ADA in CD.” Though, in the subgroup of anti-TNF exposed patients, “combination therapy was associated with higher odds of induction of remission.”

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One Proposal to Reduce Thiopurine Combination Therapy

A recent review (X Roblin et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2016; 22: 1496-1501) provided a useful review of thiopurine/biologic combination therapy.  The part of this review that I found intriguing was their Figure 3: “Proposed algorithm that may guide drug discontinuation or de-escalation in patients with IBD who achieved sustained deep remission while on combination therapy.”

  • In those (in sustained deep remission) with an infliximab trough level >5 mcg/mL, this algorithm recommends discontinuation of thiopurine.
  • In those with an infliximab trough level 3-5 mcg/mL and with 6-TGN >250, this algorithm recommends reduction of thiopurine to obtain 6-TGN level >125.
  • In those with an infliximab trough level <2 mcg/mL and with 6-TGN >250, this algorithm recommends discuss stopping infliximab.

The authors acknowledge that this algorithm has not been studied and “needs to be investigated in prospective trials specifically addressing this issue.”

My take: Until more studies emerge, the best way to balance control of IBD and minimize drug toxicity remains uncertain.

Unrelated references:

  • “Crohn’s disease of the ileoanal pouch” AL Lightner et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2016; 22: 1502-8.
  • SZ Koh et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2016; 22: 1397-1402. This reference describes clinical factors associated with development of Crohn’s disease in patients with IBDU who have undergone ileal pouch (e.g. younger age).

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Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge

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CCFA Conference Notes 2016 (part 2) -Pediatric Lecture

This blog entry has abbreviated/summarized this terrific presentation; most of the material has been covered in this blog in prior entries but still this was a useful review. Though not intentional, some important material is likely to have been omitted; in addition, transcription errors are possible as well.

2nd Lecture: What is Next in Treatments for Pediatric Patients? –Dr. Michael Rosen

I really enjoyed meeting Dr. Rosen. He is super-friendly and knowledgeable.

Combination therapy. Grossi V et al showed improvement in infliximab durability with concomitant therapy.

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Now starting COMBINE trial (ImproveCareNow)–randomized to low dose MTX or placebo in combination with anti-TNF agent.

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Therapeutic drug monitoring in pediatrics. Is this an alternative to combination therapy? Rationale (see slide): lower antibody formation if trough levels maintained. IFX level >5.5 associated with persistent remission (Singh et al 2014). Children are growing and they may need more adjustments. In Cincy, checking levels at week 14 after initiation and then every 6-12 months.

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Acute Severe Ulcerative Colitis. High rates of dose escalation in this population. Some of this is due to more rapid clearance of anti-TNF –leaking in gut and other mechanisms as well. Week 8 level of 40 associated with clinical response. Thus, this population may benefit from 10 mg/kg at start (in those with albumin <3) and may need more frequent dosing, especially early into treatment (?0, 2, 6, 10). ARCH study to look into this further

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Vedolizumab. Conrad MA 2015. About 1/3rd of these refractory patients in this abstract responded.

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Ustekinumab . IL-12 & IL-23 blockage. No studies in pediatrics. Case report reviewed of good response in a refractory case.

Enteral therapy. Specific carbohydrate diet experience. These diets have some published data, most retrospective studies. Our group (Cohen SA et al) did perform a small prospective study. Sigall-Boneh R et al showed improvement with partial enteral nutrition.

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Very early-onset of IBD. IL-10 receptor deficiency was a key early discovery and can be treated with stem cell transplant. STAT3 mutation case reviewed which was managed with tocilizumab. More targeted therapy expected based on specific mutations.

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Should Methotrexate Be Used For Ulcerative Colitis?

A recent study (F Carbonnel et al. Gastroenterol http://dx.doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2015.10.050, article in press; thanks to KT Park twitter feed for reference) with 111 patients provides more questions than answers.  It appears that methotrexate improved clinical remission but the overall difference is fairly small; the abstract is below.

My initial impression: Immunomodulators (including methotrexate and thiopurines) have some efficacy as monotherapy agents in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Their role as part of combination therapy (with anti-TNF agents) has been associated with improved outcomes but how long to use combination therapy and at what dosage is still being worked out.

Here’s the abstract and a link: Methotrexate is not Superior to Placebo in Inducing Steroid-free Remission, but Induces Steroid-free Clinical Remission in a Larger Proportion of Patients with Ulcerative Colitis

Background & Aims

Parenteral methotrexate is an effective treatment for patients with Crohn’s disease but has never been adequately evaluated in patients with ulcerative colitis (UC). We conducted a randomized controlled trial to determine its safety and efficacy in patients with steroid-dependent UC.

Methods

We performed a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to evaluate the efficacy of parenteral methotrexate (25 mg/week) in 111 patients with corticosteroid-dependent UC at 26 medical centers in Europe, from 2007 through 2013. Patients were given prednisone (10 to 40 mg/day) when the study began, and randomly assigned to groups (1:1) given placebo or methotrexate (intramuscularly or subcutaneously, 25 mg weekly) for 24 weeks. The primary endpoint was steroid-free remission (defined as a Mayo score ≤ 2 with no item > 1 and complete withdrawal of steroids) at week 16. Secondary endpoints included clinical remission (defined as a Mayo clinical subscore ≤ 2 with no item > 1) and endoscopic healing without steroids at weeks 16 and/or 24, remission without steroids at week 24, and remission at both weeks 16 and 24.

Results

Steroid-free remission at week 16 was achieved by 19/60 patients given methotrexate (31.7%) and 10/51 patients given placebo (19.6%)—a difference of 12.1% (95% confidence interval [CI], –4.0% to 28.1%; P=.15). The proportions of patients in steroid-free clinical remission at week 16 were 41.7% in the methotrexate group and 23.5% in the placebo group, for a difference of 18.1% (95% CI, 1.1%–35.2%; P=.04). The proportions of patients with steroid-free endoscopic healing at week 16 were 35% in the methotrexate group and 25.5% in the placebo group—a difference of 9.5% (95% CI, –7.5% to 26.5%; P=.28). No differences were observed in other secondary endpoints. More patients receiving placebo discontinued the study because of adverse events (47.1%), mostly caused by UC, than patients receiving methotrexate (26.7%; P=.03). A higher proportion of patients in the methotrexate group had nausea and vomiting (21.7%) than in the placebo group (3.9%; P=.006).

Conclusions

In a randomized controlled trial, parenteral methotrexate was not superior to placebo for induction of steroid-free remission in patients with UC. However, methotrexate induced clinical remission without steroids in a significantly larger percentage of patients, resulting in fewer withdrawals from therapy due to active UC.

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Banning Mills

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‘Don’t Believe Our Study’

The message I inferred from a recent study (CA Siegel et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2015; 13: 2233-40) was to disregard their results which generally showed a lack of benefit of combination therapy (aka “concomitant immunomodulator” or dual therapy) compared with anti-tumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF) monotherapy for Crohn’s disease.

Specifically, the authors state the following in their discussion:

Although our results challenge the clinical importance of combination therapy in this specific scenario, it is hard to ignore the preponderance of data to date relating to the pharmacokinetics of anti-TNF medications that support the approach of combination therapy over monotherapy.

Here’s the background for this study.  The authors performed a meta-analysis of placebo-controlled trials (n=1601 subjects) to examine the question of whether continued use of immunomodulators (IMs) would be of benefit in patients who had failed monotherapy with IMs (“IM-experienced”).  The authors note that the SONIC study showed that combination therapy (infliximab and azathioprine) was more beneficial in patients who were IM-naive than monotherapy.  This meta-analysis included data from 3 anti-TNF agents: infliximab, adalimumab, and certolizumab.

Key findings:

  • Combination therapy was no more effective than monotherapy in inducing 6-month remission (odds ratio 1.02) or in maintaining a response (OR 1.53).
  • In subgroup analysis, there was a statistically-significant protective effect of baseline IM exposure versus no baseline IM exposure among those treated with infliximab.
  • Generally, combination therapy was not associated with any change in adverse reactions; however, combination therapy with infliximab had lower adverse events, which was driven by infusion reactions.

My take: This study indicates that combination therapy is likely helpful in IM-experienced patients who are starting infliximab and possibly not effective with the other anti-TNF agents.  The authors emphasize the need for well-designed, prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled trial for a definitive answer.  Until then, don’t believe their study.

Of interest: Recently I became aware of a college scholarship opportunity for young adults with IBD: Abbvie Scholarship Program.

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Yosemite National Park

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Should All Pediatric Patients with Crohn’s Disease Continue Combination Therapy?

Among patients/families who are not in denial about their inflammatory bowel disease, especially Crohn’s disease, an important discussion is the use of combination therapy.  This has been discussed on this blog before (see some links below).  More data on this subject has been published and again favors the use of combination therapy (V Grossi, T Lerer, et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2015; 13: 1748-56).

This study collected data from 2002-2014 on 502 children who participated in a prospective multicenter study. This data was derived from an observational registry rather than a randomized trial, but likely reflects real-world experience with regard to newly diagnosed patients. The authors excluded those with prior biologic therapy and prior resectional surgery.

KEY FINDINGS:

  • Children receiving combination immunomodulator (IM) treatment were more likely to have durable infliximab therapy at 1 year, 3 years, and 5 years.
  • Greater length of concomitant IMs was associated with better durability.
  • For patients who had IM > 6 months after starting infliximab (n=194), durability was 0.70 at 5 years compared with 0.55 for patients with IM <6 months (n=144), and 0.48 for those who did not receive IMs (n=135).
  • In boys, methotrexate appeared to be superior to thiopurines (P<.01): 0.98 at 5 yrs compared with 0.58.  However, there were 60 males receiving methotrexate.  In the study, only 21 females received methotrexate which limited any conclusions.

Among patients who stopped IFX, the reasons included loss of response (n=61, 43%), hypersensitivity reaction (n=41, 29%), elective (n=25, 18%), lost to f/u (n=5, 3%), and other causes (10, 7%).

The “right” dose of methotrexate as a combination agent remains unclear.  There was a wide range of dosing schedules in this study.  It is worth observing that the COMMIT study in adults found no significant difference in adults who received methotrexate in addition to infliximab compared with those receiving infliximab monotherapy.

Take-home message: In this large pediatric observational study, the use of immunomodulators increased the likely durability of infliximab.  Given prior conflicting data (particularly with regard to methotrexate), even more studies are needed to determine exactly how useful combination therapy is and when monotherapy will suffice.  From my viewpoint, I worry much more about loss of efficacy to infliximab than I worry about medication adverse effects.  As such, I will continue to inform families that combination therapy appears to improve infliximab durability.

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Best Tweets Two #NASPGHAN15

One clarification -I do not think that Dr. Narkewicz is calling Dr. Balistreri a panda:

Dr B

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Dr. H

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