Few data are available on the disease course in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in deep remission after discontinuing tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα)–blocking therapy. In this prospective multicenter study, we evaluated the relapse rate, predictive factors, and the response to retreatment after discontinuation of TNFα-blocking therapy in patients with IBD in deep remission.
We recruited 52 patients (17 Crohn's disease, 30 ulcerative colitis, and 5 IBD unclassified) in clinical, endoscopic, and fecal calprotectin-based (<100 μg/g) remission after at least 1 year of TNFα-blocking therapy. Clinical and endoscopic remission and relapse were defined according to validated indices. After discontinuation of therapy, the patients were followed up with endoscopic assessment at 4 and 12 months. In the event of a clinical relapse with endoscopically active disease or minor clinical symptoms but severe endoscopic relapse, TNFα-blocking therapy was restarted.
After a median follow-up time of 13 (range, 12–15) months, 17/51 (33%) patients relapsed (5/17 Crohn's disease, 12/34 ulcerative colitis/IBD unclassified, 1 patient lost to follow-up at 6 mo). Ten experienced clinical and endoscopic relapse, 5 clinical relapse with mild endoscopic activity, and 2 severe endoscopic relapse. No specific predictive factors were associated with the relapse. Retreatment was effective in 94% of patients.
After cessation of TNFα-blocking therapy in patients with IBD in deep remission, up to 67% remained in clinical remission during the 12-month follow-up. Importantly, 85% of these patients sustained endoscopic remission. The response to restart of TNFα antagonists was effective and well tolerated.