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Use of sirolimus (rapamycin) to treat refractory Crohn’s disease


We present the case of a 37-year-old woman with severe refractory colonic and perianal Crohn’s disease who had lost response to second-line, steroid-sparing treatments azathioprine, methotrexate and infliximab. For many such patients extensive surgery has often been considered the only option. New insights provided by the results of genome-wide association scanning in Crohn’s disease highlight autophagy, a cellular process implicated in the clearance of intracellular bacteria, as a key process in Crohn’s disease pathogeneses. Sirolimus (rapamycin) is a drug used to upregulate autophagy in cell culture in the laboratory, and in clinical practice to prevent rejection following organ transplantation due to independent immunosuppressive action. Our patient was treated with sirolimus for 6 months at a dose that maintained serum trough levels of 5 ng/ml. There was marked and sustained improvement in Crohn’s disease symptoms with the Harvey–Bradshaw index falling from 13 to 3, in serum markers of inflammation (C-reactive protein fell from 79 to 2) and endoscopic appearance. This is the first reported case of the use of sirolimus to treat Crohn’s disease.

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