Inflammatory bowel disease, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, are chronic inflammatory disorders of the gastrointestinal tract which are characterised, in part, by an imbalance in the production of several pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines. Although various agents are effective for inducing and maintaining remission, approximately 20% of patients are treatment-refractory and require surgery. Parenterally administered monoclonal antibody-based biologics are associated with adverse effects resulting in treatment discontinuation and/or immunogenicity, leading to loss of response to therapy. Approximately 50% of patients who initially respond to treatment with tumour necrosis factor antagonists lose response to therapy within the 1st year of treatment. Incidence of immunogenicity tends to decrease over time, but once present can persist for years, even after treatment discontinuation. Nonimmunogenic oral small molecule therapies, including Janus kinase inhibitors, are currently being developed and have demonstrated efficacy in early phase clinical trials, which has already led to regulatory approval of tofacitinib for the treatment of patients with moderate-to-severe ulcerative colitis. Differentiation of T cells into T helper cells, which are mediators of the inflammatory response in inflammatory bowel disease, is mediated by the Janus kinase signal transducer and activator of the transcription signalling pathway. Absorption and distribution of Janus kinase inhibitors occurs at the site of action in the gastrointestinal tract, and newer compounds are being developed with limited systemic absorption, potentially reducing the risk of adverse effects. The current review describes the clinical pharmacology of approved Janus kinase inhibitors, as well as those in clinical development for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease.
© European Crohn’s and Colitis Organisation (ECCO) 2020.