Review article: the role of anti-TNF in the management of ulcerative colitis – past, present and future


  • This commissioned review article was subject to full peer-review.

Correspondence to:

Prof. S. Danese, IBD Center, IBD Center, Humanitas Clinical and Research Centre, 20089

Rozzano, Milan, Italy.




Until recently, the management of ulcerative colitis (UC) consisted of the stepwise use of mesalazine, corticosteroids and immunomodulators, or consideration of surgery. Anti-tumour necrosis factor (TNF) agents are recent additions to the UC-treatment algorithm.


To provide clinicians with a review of the role of anti-TNFs in UC, discussing how the drug(s) were used in the past, their current use and to determine their future role.


The scientific literature was reviewed to evaluate data on the use of anti-TNFs in UC.


In this review, we report how the management of UC has changed with the availability of anti-TNFs. The results from landmark anti-TNF trials have impacted clinical practice, leading to a readjustment of treatment goals. In addition, experience from clinical trials and local real-life cohorts have helped to clarify some misunderstandings in the management of UC. New anti-TNFs are on the horizon but questions still remain on the future role of anti-TNFs with regard to impact on disability, digestive damage and the possible development of risk matrices. Experiences from the use of anti-TNFs in Crohn's disease (for example, combination therapy and early treatment) now need to be addressed in UC.


The use of anti-TNFs in the management of UC has matured rapidly. Clinical experience has helped shape the current role of anti-TNFs, but more clinical research is needed to optimise their future role.