Research Success

For more than forty years, research supported by the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation has contributed to the growing body of knowledge and understanding of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, collectively known as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).

Today, both the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) actively support research in the field, and there are approximately 80 new therapies in the pipeline. Below are examples of recent successful research initiatives, studies, clinical trials, and other efforts supported by the Foundation that have resulted in new advances in the field.

For a more comprehensive list of research news, visit the News Archive.

Basic Research

Crohn's & Colitis Foundation research has contributed significantly to the current hypothesis of the cause of IBD:

  • That yet-unidentified environmental agents (such as bacteria) trigger an abnormal immune response in people who carry genes that make them susceptible to Crohn's or colitis.
  • That the interplay of genetics, environment, and the immune system accounts for the initiation and perpetuation of the disease.

Crohn's & Colitis Foundation research funding has supported:

  • Early Research on TNF-alpha, which contributed to the development of infliximab
  • Discovery of the first gene for Crohn's disease, NOD2
  • Development of animal models of IBD—vital resources that have greatly accelerated the pace of research
  • Understanding and investigation of microbial antigens, bacteria that normally occur in the intestine and that are involved in the body's immune response
  • Understanding the function of epithelial barrier cells, which are key to understanding intestinal inflammation
  • Understanding and stopping inflammation.
  • Early career training for many of the investigators involved in discovery of the IL-23 gene's role in IBD

 Clinical Research

The Crohn's & Colitis Foundation has sponsored comparative drug trials to find new uses for existing therapies—to enhance the effectiveness of these medications or to minimize harmful side effects:

  • Azathioprine in both Crohn's and ulcerative colitis
  • Azathioprine and prednisone vs. prednisone alone
  • Effectiveness of methotrexate
  • Methotrexate vs. 6-MP
  • 6-MP vs. 5-ASA.
  • Efficacy of infliximab in combination with methotrexate for Crohn's disease - study is ongoing

Key Outcomes in Surgery

  • New surgical technique: improving ileoanal pouch surgery by sparing the anal transition zone. In people who have undergone colectomy, this operation eliminates the need to wear an external pouch in order to eliminate body wastes.
  • Understanding the psychological impact of ostomy surgery.

Contributions to Cancer Research

  • Standard Classification for Dysplasia in IBD—landmark paper that helps physicians evaluate pre-cancerous changes in cells and determine course of action for their patients. 
  • Studies of markers of cancer risk in chronic ulcerative colitis.

Contributions to Pediatric Research

  • Prednisone absorption in childhood IBD
  • Interventions for bone mineral deficits in children
  • Value of serological markers in pediatric IBD
  • Alternate-day dosing of prednisone in children
  • 6-MP and corticosteroids in newly diagnosed children.

The Crohn's & Colitis Foundation's Research Investment Portfolio Also Includes:

  • Targeting specific "hot areas" for Requests for Applications from researchers
    • Identification of the microbial antigens that activate immune responses in the intestine.
    • Biomarkers of colon cancer in IBD
    • Growth/Bone development - discover how inflammation causes growth failure and bone disease in children with IBD
  • Funding government studies the Foundation deems essential to IBD
    • CDC/Kaiser Permanente Epidemiology Project, which will help determine how many Americans have IBD and identify differences in treatment patterns
  • Building resources that benefit the entire scientific community
    • Clinical Research Alliance, a national network of medical centers that participate in clinical trials
    • DNA and Cell Line Bank, an important resource for geneticists who are studying IBD