Belgian researchers involved in new treatment for Crohn's disease


A group of Belgian researchers from the Imelda hospital in Bonheiden has been involved in the development of a new treatment strategy for Crohn's disease. Their experiment is part of a large-scale international research project (the CALM study), of which the results were recently published in the medical journal ‘The Lancet’.

Crohn's disease is an illness affecting the digestive system, whereby the immune system attacks the intestine. Patients suffer from symptoms such as stomach aches, diarrhoea and loss of blood, complaints requiring intensive long-term treatment. The illness tends to develop between the age of 20 and 30 years old and affects 25.000 people in Belgium.

However, there are only limited treatments available for the illness, such as cortisone, immunosuppression and biologicals which, that until now, were administered during standard treatment. The recent international study looked into whether a target-to-target treatment strategy might be more effective: that is a strategy whereby the patient is not only treated based on the symptoms, but also based on the inflammation parameters in the blood and the stools. Moreover, the therapy is also managed, even when the patient has no complaints. Despite being more intensive, the treatment is not more expensive and does not cause any additional side effects or complications.

This international study demonstrates that patients treated with the target-to-target strategy do much better after one year than patients treated on the basis of the standard strategy. Furthermore, no new medication is involved, but simply a new administration process, meaning that the change to the current strategy in treating Crohn's disease can be quickly implemented.

74 hospitals from 22 different countries participated in the research, however, the Imelda hospital in Bonheiden was one of the leading centres in this research. The study was conducted by researchers from the IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) clinic and led by Peter Bossuyt, MD.