Patient Ellis Steinberg

Ulcerative colitis study offers fresh hope after failed treatments

Getting involved in research was a simple decision for Ellis Steinberg.

Ellis has ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory condition that affects the colon and rectum and doesn’t yet have a cure. But four years after being diagnosed, and after trying several different treatments, his symptoms still weren’t under control.

Ulcerative colitis can cause a range of problems, including diarrhoea with bleeding, abdominal discomfort, a generalised feeling of poor well-being and exhaustion. Although modern treatments can ease the symptoms, Ellis’s doctors had struggled to find one that worked for him and had suggested that he might now have to consider surgery to remove his colon.

So when he was asked if he’d like to join a research study at Fairfield General Hospital testing a new injected treatment, he felt it offered real hope of avoiding surgery.

He said: “This condition has been niggling at me for four years now and we’d come to the end of the road with the standard treatments.

“I’d already had 10 months of a self-injected treatment, a year of another treatment that was given as an infusion every eight weeks and finally one that unfortunately caused side effects. It was beginning to look like I would have to think about surgery. I’d much rather avoid that if I can so I felt I had nothing to lose with the research.”

Tailored treatment

The study Ellis is taking part in is looking at a novel gut (bowel) specific drug which blocks the entry of inflammatory molecules into the gut and so prevents bowel inflammation and its complications. The sophisticated immune pathways involved in this mean that the drug may take weeks to take effect . But because it is tailored to the gut and there is a low potential of side effects, researchers believe it is a very promising treatment.

He added: “It’s early days yet and we don’t know whether I am having the active treatment or not yet but we live in hope that it’s going to work. I would encourage anybody who’s offered the chance of research to get involved – there’s nothing to lose and in my experience the staff can’t do enough for you. They look after me and my wife Jo whenever we come and I feel I’ve been treated really well.”

Consultant Gastroenterologist Professor Jimmy Limdi is Principal Clinical Research Lead at Fairfield and Principal Investigator for Ellis’s study at the hospital. He said: “Despite significant advances in our understanding of the inflammatory bowel diseases, treatment options for more aggressive disease are currently limited. Up to a third of our patients face the prospect of colectomy (surgical removal of all or part of the colon) within a few years of diagnosis. The ability to offer an expanded range of therapies to our patients may help bridge this gap. It is hugely gratifying that our patients can get the very best treatment options at our centre. I sincerely hope that this tireless pursuit of the ’right’ drug, for the ’right’ patient and at the ‘right’ time will be rewarded by good outcomes for our patients.”