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BACKGROUND: More than half of the patients with inflammatory bowel diseases are candidates for immunosuppressive therapy. However, even the most effective drugs used in inflammatory bowel disease are only successful in about two-thirds of patients. Adverse events limit their use in a further substantial proportion of patients. Recent research has focussed on the possibility of predicting a drugs' efficacy and/or toxicity by identifying polymorphic variants in the genes encoding enzymes involved in metabolic pathways. AIM: To highlight recent advances and limitations in the field of pharmacogenetics in inflammatory bowel disease. RESULTS: Recent pharmacogenetic studies have mainly focussed on immunosuppressive agents including corticosteroids, azathioprine, methotrexate and infliximab. Several polymorphic genes encoding enzymes involved in the metabolism of these drugs have been identified including the inosine triphosphate pyrophosphatase in thiopurine therapy, the methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase in methotrexate therapy and polymorphisms in apoptosis genes in infliximab therapy. However, at the present time, genotyping for the variants of the thiopurine methyltransferase gene, an enzyme important for the metabolism of the thiopurine drugs, is the only useful test in clinical practice. CONCLUSIONS: Although the field of pharmacogenetics in inflammatory bowel disease is promising most new targets have so far failed to translate into clinical practice. Future pharmaceutical trials should include pharmacogenetic research to test appropriate candidate genes in a prospective manner.

Original publication




Journal article


Aliment Pharmacol Ther

Publication Date





1403 - 1412


Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Humans, Immunosuppressive Agents, Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, Pharmacogenetics, Steroids