Conference Coverage

Risankizumab has early and lasting benefits in Crohn’s disease


AT ACG 2021

LAS VEGAS – Risankizumab (Skyrizi, AbbVie) provides early and lasting benefits for patients with Crohn’s disease, phase 3 trials indicate.

Based on these and other recent findings, the drug could be used as a first-line treatment and even displace ustekinumab (Stelara, Janssen), which itself was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for Crohn’s disease in 2016, according to David Rubin, MD, the Joseph B. Kirsner Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago.

“The drug works fast,” Dr. Rubin said in an interview. “If you start this therapy in patients with moderate to severe Crohn’s disease, they’re likely to feel better within the first few weeks.”

Dr. Rubin presented the findings on the drug’s early onset at the annual meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology. A related trial presented at the meeting showed the drug continuing to perform well up to 52 weeks.

Advances in immunomodulation have allowed drug companies to feed multiple new therapies into the pipeline for Crohn’s disease and related conditions in recent years, giving hope to the many patients who have not been able to benefit from older classes of drugs, such as biologics.

A humanized immunoglobulin G1 (IgG1) monoclonal antibody, risankizumab blocks interleukin (IL) 23 by binding to its p19 subunit. IL-23 is a cytokine implicated in several chronic immune disorders, including Crohn’s disease and psoriasis. Researchers hope that risankizumab will prove more selective, with a better safety profile, than previous drugs in its class. The FDA approved risankizumab in April 2019 for the treatment of moderate to severe plaque psoriasis.


The two induction trials for Crohn’s disease enrolled slightly different populations.

The MOTIVATE study enrolled patients who had responded inadequately or were intolerant to biologic therapy. In this trial, the investigators assigned 205 patients to 1,200 mg of risankizumab, 206 patients to 600 mg of risankizumab, and 207 patients to placebo.

The ADVANCE study enrolled patients who had responded inadequately or could not tolerate either biologic or conventional therapy. In this trial, investigators randomly assigned 372 patients to 1,200 mg of risankizumab, 373 patients to 600 mg of risankizumab, and 186 patients to placebo.

In both trials, intravenous injections were given at weeks 0, 4, and 8.

The researchers defined a Crohn’s Disease Activity Index (CDAI) clinical remission as a score less than 150. They defined a Stool Frequency and Abdominal Pain Score (SF/APS) clinical remission as a soft stool frequency of no more than 2.8, and an abdominal pain score of no more than 1 and not worse than baseline.

A CDAI clinical response was at least a 100-point decrease from baseline. The SF/APS enhanced clinical response was at least a 60% decrease in average daily stool frequency or at least a 35% decrease in average daily abdominal pain, with both not worse than baseline.

At 4 weeks, the researchers found that the percentage of patients who achieved CDAI clinical remission in both risankizumab groups of both studies was greater than in the placebo group. The difference was statistically significant (P ≤ .01 in ADVANCE and P ≤ .05 in MOTIVATE), and it continued to grow at 8 weeks and 12 weeks.

By 12 weeks in the ADVANCE trial, according to a press release from AbbVie, 45% of patients on the 600-mg dose of risankizumab and 42% on the 1,200-mg dose of risankizumab had achieved CDAI clinical remission, compared with 25% of those on placebo, which was statistically significant (P < .001). For the MOTIVATE trial, the results were significantly better for patients in the risankizumab groups than for those in the placebo group.

In both trials, the treated groups continued to improve faster than the placebo groups through 12 weeks. Improvements in SF/APS enhanced clinical response largely paralleled those for CDAI clinical remission.

“It did show very good results,” session moderator Jonathan Leighton, MD, professor of medicine and chair of the division of gastroenterology at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Ariz., said in an interview with Medscape Medical News. “But basically, it’s so early that we don’t have all the data.” In particular, he would have liked to see whether patients responded to the drug before week 4.


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