The drug can keep leukemia in remission in younger patients for years

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Author: Robert Preidt
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Dec. 14, 2021 (HealthDay News) – For certain leukemia patients, some welcome findings: New research confirms long remissions after ibrutinib treatment and chemotherapy.

The study involved 85 patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). All were 65 or younger, and 46 had a more aggressive, unmutated IGHV subtype of the disease.

“Patients with a lower-risk CLL marked by mutated IGHV genes may achieve long-term remissions after a six-month regimen known as FCR – for the chemotherapeutic drugs fludarabine and cyclophosphamide and rituximab for antibody therapy,” said Dr. Matthew Davids of the Danak-Farber Institute. in Boston, the institute said in a statement.

Patients with a higher risk CLL, without the IGHV mutation, usually do not have the same lasting benefit from FCR, but may be very good on ibrutinib (Imbruvica brand), which blocks an enzyme used by CLL cells to survive.

However, they must continue to take ibrutinib for the rest of their lives, which can be challenging due to the constant risks and side effects drugs, Davids explained.

“Our study examined whether the time-limited course of ibrutinib given in combination with FCR could provide permanent remissions for patients with CLL, regardless of whether they have the IGHV-mutated or -nummified subtype,” he said.

Study participants received ibrutinib for seven days followed by a combination of ibrutinib and FCR for up to six months. They continued to receive only ibrutinib for another two years. Those who did not have noticeable leukemia cells Marrowbone after two years of stopping taking the drug.

After a median follow-up of more than 40 months, 99% of patients were still alive and 97% were alive without disease exacerbation. These rates are basically unchanged from the previous follow-up after 16.5 months.

According to the study, several patients whose leukemia recurred after 2.5 years responded well when they started taking ibrutinib again. The findings were presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology.

“We are very encouraged by the potential of this therapy to generate long-term remissions in a wide population of younger CLL patients,” Davids said. “Especially for young patients, who hopefully have decades of life ahead of them, the prospect of time-limited therapy that can have such a lasting effect without the need for continuous treatment is very striking.”

The research presented at the meetings should be considered preliminary until it is published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

Find out more about chronic lymphocytic leukemia at American Cancer Society.

SOURCE: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, press release, December 13, 2021.

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