ASH 2013: Dr. Neil Kay on Why We Need a CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemic) Expert and on Clonal Evolution
I interviewed him in New Orleans at ASH 2013.
His research has been wide and varied including the studies on EGCG (the active ingredient in green tea) that was sponsored by CLL Topics and Chaya Venkat that looked to see if there might be role for this specific extract from green tea as a gentler and more natural way to control our disease. Turns out it did have some significant efficacy, though its effect were not too powerful.
I miss what Chaya and what CLL Topics did for our community. Much of my work is an effort to pick up where she left off, but those are big shoes to fill.
In our interview form December 2013, Dr. Kay hits us with the cold facts that support my long time mantra of getting a CLL expert to head up your team. His published study has proven that we have better outcomes if we have a CLL expert on our team.
He and I discuss our shared vision of the perfect treatment team.
I can not overstate how important this is to our success in our long duet with our CLL, our nasty dancing bear of a partner. It can determine who will leads and who will follow, and how often we will get our toes stomped or worse, how often we will be forced to endure unwelcome advances by our disease.
The second topic we grappled with is more complex but worth the effort. It has to do with CLL clonal evolution.
Turns out p53 (often but not always related to a 17p deletion) is only half the story.
Turns out CLL is not a genetically stable disease. No surprise there. Especially true if you are unmutated or missing 17p.
Turns out the problem may be baked into the cancer from the start, to quote Dr. Kay it may be a "resident property of a patient who presents with CLL" and that treatment does not induce the new clones but allows what were once minor subclones to grow and become dominant. And that can spell problems for us as those clones are nearly always more aggressive and resistant to treatment.
The lessons from this research help inform us about the biology of how our cancer relapses and more importantly, about how it becomes refractory (resistant to therapy).
Dr. Kay admits that this research predates the new signal inhibitors such as ibrutinib and idelalisib and ABT-199 and more. How their use will impact the evolution of the CLL clones and subclones is a story that is not yet understood, but we can learn from this important research.
His explanation is crisp and clear. Understanding what his collaborative research has uncovered by looking at genetic evolution of CLL should help inform our decisions about when and how to treat our leukemia.
The second part of the interview will follow soon.