According to a story from EurekAlert!, a team of scientists affiliated with the University of Cambridge have pioneered a new test that could herald a new development in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. This test is able to reliably predict the prognosis, or course, of an individual patient’s disease. With this data, doctors could have more leeway to create more personalized treatment plans that could carry greater benefits for patients.
About Inflammatory Bowel Disease
There are two main types of inflammatory bowel disease. These are Crohn’s disease, which is not considered rare, and ulcerative colitis, which is. While there are distinctive differences in presentation between these two illnesses, they are similar in that the mechanism involves chronic inflammation in the intestine. Other symptoms that they share include abdominal pain, fatigue, weight loss, and diarrhea mixed with blood. Symptoms often appear in a relapsing-remitting pattern and may worsen over time in some patients.
Developing The Test
The development of the test first began with the identification of a critical biomarker: the CD8 T-cell. This immune cell could be used to predict the severity of a patient’s disease. The team used data from 69 patients with Crohn’s disease in order to look at both whole blood samples and CD8 activity. Using both a whole blood assay called qPCR and machine learning, the team was able to reproduce the predictive capability of CD8, meaning that a scale-able test (one that could be practically useful on a large scale) was possible. The scientists further validated their findings with data from 123 additional inflammatory bowel disease patients.
The implications are significant. Since this test could predict how severe a patient’s inflammatory bowel disease could be, doctors would now know whether a patient needs a less powerful drug than can effectively control symptoms with minimal side effects or the most potent therapy available.
Further testing with the new approach is expected to continue. These trials will attempt to use the new prognostic test at the time of diagnosis with new patients to determine once and for all how reliable it really is.
The original study was first published in the academic journal Gut. Check it out here.