Objective The aim of this study was to assess the correlation between serum and intestinal anti-tumour necrosis factor (TNF) levels, and their relationship to endoscopic disease activity and levels of TNF. Design Cross-sectional study of 30 patients receiving treatment with infliximab or adalimumab for Crohn's disease or UC. For each patient, a sample of serum was matched to tissue biopsies. Endoscopic and histological disease activity was recorded for each tissue sample. Results There was a significant positive correlation between anti-TNF in serum and tissue (r=0.3920, p=0.002), especially in uninflamed tissue (r=0.50, p<0.001), but not with those samples that had inflammation (r=0.19, p=0.54). Anti-TNF concentration in tissue correlated with degree of endoscopic inflammation, except for tissue with severe inflammation in which anti-TNF levels were again lower (mean normalised anti-TNF in tissue: uninflamed=0.93, mild=2.17, moderate=13.71, severe=2.2 inflammation (p=0.0042)). The ratio of anti-TNF-to-TNF in tissue was highest in uninflamed areas and lowest in severely inflamed areas. Patients with active mucosal disease had a higher rate of serum to tissue drug level mismatch when compared to those in remission (73.3% vs 33.3%, respectively; p=0.03). Conclusions Our data suggest that local tissue inflammation characterised by high levels of TNF serves as a sink for anti-TNF. We further postulate that some patients with high serum anti-TNF levels have active disease because tissue levels of anti-TNF are insufficient to neutralise local TNF production.
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