Better treatment of Crohn’s disease tested by Antwerp hospital


Flanders’ Imelda Hospital was one of the leading institutions in a study that tested targeted therapy for Crohn’s disease, with remarkable results

Improved treatment

The Imelda Hospital in Bonheiden, Antwerp province, was one of the leading institutions involved in a new study to improve the treatment of Crohn’s disease. The results of the Calm Study – which assessed whether a “treat-to-target” therapy would work better than traditional treatments of the chronic illness – have just been published in The Lancet.

Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease caused by the body’s own immune system attacking the gastrointestinal tract. It leads to a wealth of related problems, the most prominent being abdominal pain, diarrhoea and weight loss – sometimes severe.

Crohn’s is infamously difficult to treat as it is still unclear what causes it and because of a variety of related conditions such as exhaustion, rashes and arthritis. People with a severe form of Crohn’s are usually unable to work or lead a normal life.

Treatment varies greatly, depending on the individual’s complaints and the strategies employed by a particular doctor. Antibiotics are used, as well as anti-inflammatory drugs and biologics. Because there is no cure for the disease, the treatments work to control the symptoms.

Treating to biomarkers

Imelda’s clinic for inflammatory bowel disease set out to determine if treat-to-target methods would be more effective in relieving patients’ symptoms. With this method, treatment tackled not only the symptoms but were designed according to inflammatory parameters – known as inflammation biomarkers – in each patient’s blood and stool.

Although the same medications were used in both groups of patients, the group that were treated based on their biomarkers did substantially better than the group of patients treated only based on symptoms. Researchers found that 46% of patients in the control group saw lesions in their gut disappear under targeted treatment, compared to 30% of the other group.

The results of the study could have major implications on the treatment of Crohne’s worldwide. “The results are not only better for the patient but also better for the health care system,” said Bossuyt, who led the team at Imelda, “because the costs involved with the patients in the treat-to-target group are much lower.”