Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory disorder with limited effective therapeutic options for long-term treatment and disease maintenance. We hypothesized that a multi-cohort analysis of independent cohorts representing real-world heterogeneity of UC would identify a robust transcriptomic signature to improve identification of FDA-approved drugs that can be repurposed to treat patients with UC.
Materials and Methods
We performed a multi-cohort analysis of 272 colon biopsy transcriptome samples across 11 publicly available datasets to identify a robust UC disease gene signature. We compared the gene signature to in vitro transcriptomic profiles induced by 781 FDA-approved drugs to identify potential drug targets. We used a retrospective cohort study design modeled after a target trial to evaluate the protective effect of predicted drugs on colectomy risk in patients with UC from the Stanford Research Repository (STARR) database and Optum Clinformatics DataMart.
Atorvastatin treatment had the highest inverse-correlation with the UC gene signature among non-oncolytic FDA-approved therapies. In both STARR (n = 827) and Optum (n = 7821), atorvastatin intake was significantly associated with a decreased risk of colectomy, a marker of treatment-refractory disease, compared to patients prescribed a comparator drug (STARR: HR = 0.47, P = .03; Optum: HR = 0.66, P = .03), irrespective of age and length of atorvastatin treatment.
Discussion & Conclusion
These findings suggest that atorvastatin may serve as a novel therapeutic option for ameliorating disease in patients with UC. Importantly, we provide a systematic framework for integrating publicly available heterogeneous molecular data with clinical data at a large scale to repurpose existing FDA-approved drugs for a wide range of human diseases.