New Insights into the Mechanisms of Action of Anti–Tumor Necrosis Factor-α Monoclonal Antibodies in Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) has been widely accepted as a therapeutic target for inflammatory disorders including inflammatory bowel disease. Anti-TNF-α monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) including infliximab, adalimumab, golimumab, and certolizumab pegol have revolutionized therapy for these chronic inflammatory disorders. These agents are potent inhibitors of TNF-α, but significant evidence points to the fact that their actions extend beyond simple neutralization of the cytokine. Recent advances in understanding the mechanism of action of anti-TNF-α mAbs has discovered a number of previously unrecognized actions that are likely to be relevant in mediating their anti-inflammatory effects. Many of those actions are mediated by the binding of the antibodies to transmembrane TNF-α (tmTNF-α) and involve complex interactions with other molecular factors and cells. In this review, we have highlighted new information on the mechanism of actions of anti-TNF-α mAbs, from in vitro and in vivo studies. Despite obvious benefits in many patients, the clinical use of these antibodies are hampered by the fact that some patients do not respond to them, and among patients who do respond, many will develop recurrent disease despite continued dosing. Although pharmacokinetic factors explain some of the observed cases of partial or complete resistance to the effects of anti-TNF-α mAbs, other nonresponder patients may be resistant to those agents mechanism of action. A more thorough understanding of the mechanism of action of anti-TNF-α mAbs may allow the development of strategies to individualize therapy and to overcome resistance.

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