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Immune Drug May Fight Crohn's Disease
Its success points to a new mechanism driving the illness

WEDNESDAY, May 25 (HealthDay News) -- A drug called immune factor GM-CSF stimulates a specific part of the immune system and could help improve Crohn's disease symptoms, according to researchers.

Reporting in the May 26 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, a multi-center team of American researchers tracked the nearly two-month outcomes of 94 Crohn's patients given daily injections of the drug.

They report that GM-CSF significantly lowered Crohn's symptoms and boosted patients' quality of life.

The results support the theory that Crohn's could result from defects in the body's first line of immune defense, rather than the current belief that it is primarily caused by an excessive immune response.

Crohn's is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that usually affects the small intestine.

"We've proposed that the inflammation that occurs with Crohn's is actually secondary to an earlier problem," study author Dr. Joshua Korzenik, co-director of the Crohn's and Colitis Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, explained in a prepared statement.

"We believe there is a defect with the gastrointestinal innate immune system, a group of cells that stop any microbes from entering the body. If normal intestinal bacteria are not controlled by the innate immune system, a compensatory secondary inflammation could produce the symptoms of Crohn's," Korzenik said.

"We're encouraged that these results support this new understanding of Crohn's and hope they will lead to a new treatment option for the disease," he said. "We're working with other institutions to conduct the larger-scale studies that would be needed to apply for FDA approval for this use of GM-CSF."

This study received funding from Berlex Inc. which makes the form of GM-CSF used in this research.

Doctors currently use GM-CSF to restore bone marrow function in patients undergoing chemotherapy.

More information

The Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of American has more about Crohn's disease.

Copyright © 2002 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Massachusetts General Hospital, news release, May 25, 2005

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