Monday, August 25, 2014

Approval of Imbruvica Frontline for 17p deleted CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia) and Important Trials

It's old news (July 28, 2014), but worthy of some reflection that ibrutinib ( PCI-32765 or Imbruvica) was approved frontline in CLL for those of unfortunate enough to have a deletion of the short (petite or p) arm of chromosome 17.

The p53 gene lives on the 17p arm so when it's deleted, there's missing p53. Without functional p53, cancer cells don't die very easily of apoptosis, the programmed death pathway built into all cells that allows them to suicide when they get too old to function, or in the case of our leukemic cells, become increasingly aberrant and dysfunctional. Without  the tumor suppressing p53 gene, the "guardian of the genome", protecting and repairing our DNA and if that fails, then starting to fire up the self destruction pathway, our cancer continues to grow and mutate and get weirder and more aggressive and difficult to treat.

Most chemotherapy works with the help of p53, first damaging the DNA itself, but then needing the p53 to take it from there by recognizing the overwhelming damage and then persuading the injured cell to die. No p53, and we get just the  chemo induced DNA damage, but the cell can live on and even reproduce faulty clones of itself. That is one reason 17p deletion carries such a bad prognosis.

Until we had ibrutinib (and now also idelalisib or Zydelig), our choices for treating 17p deleted CLL were poor- There were and are a few other therapies that do their killing independent of p53 induced cell suicide. Campath works if you don't have any big nodes, but comes with high infection risks. HDMP (high dose methylprednisolone) + R (rituximab) and flavoperidol and even lenalidomide helped some.

No great choices, until now.

I quote from the press release about the trial that lead to the ibrutinib approval:

At baseline, the median age of these patients was 67 years, 58% of whom had at least one tumor  >  5 cm, and 32% of whom had the del 17p mutation. Patients receiving IMBRUVICA demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in progression-free survival (PFS), overall survival (OS) and overall response rate (ORR) as compared to patients treated with ofatumumab. The median PFS and OS has not been reached on the IMBRUVICA arm. There was a 78% statistically significant reduction in the risk of progression or death as assessed by an independent review committee (IRC) according to the modified IWCLL criteria (HR 0.22, 95% CI, 0.15 to 0.32). In addition, the analysis of overall survival demonstrated a 57% statistically significant reduction in the risk of death for patients in the IMBRUVICA arm (HR 0.43; 95 CI, 0.24 to 0.79). This was observed despite a total of 57 patients who were initially randomized to ofatumumab crossing over to receive IMBRUVICA prior to the analysis. For previously treated del 17p CLL patients, there was a 75% reduction in the risk of progression or death as assessed by an IRC (HR 0.25, 95% CI, 0.14 to 0.45).

Ibrutinib seems to do well on all the folks like me with a missing 17p chromosome on our FISH test, and probably even better for the treatment naive 17p deleted patient. Here is another abstract from the NIH on the subject.

This is good news, right now for just those 17p deletion frontline, but I hope it is only the beginning.

I believe these drugs and others in the pipeline need to be available to all appropriate treatment naive patients, not just those with 17p deletion.

It shouldn't be that most of us have to fail chemo first before being offered less toxic options. The ibrutinib data from the earliest trials suggest those who get ibrutinib upfront before any chemo do the best.

That is why there are some really important clinical trials out there to consider for those who will soon be needing their first treatment for their CLL. Here are a few of my favorites.

With ibrutinib or Imbruvica:

Rituximab and Bendamustine Hydrochloride, Rituximab and Ibrutinib, or Ibrutinib Alone in Treating Older Patients With Previously Untreated Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

Ibrutinib and Rituximab Compared With Fludarabine Phosphate, Cyclophosphamide, and Rituximab in Treating Patients With Untreated Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia or Small Lymphocytic Lymphoma

With idelalisib or Zydelig or CAL101: 

A Study of Idelalisib (GS1101CAL101) + Ofatumumab in Previously Untreated CLL/SLL

A Study of Idelalisib and Rituximab in Elderly Patients With Untreated CLL or SLL

Efficacy and Safety of Idelalisib in Combination With Bendamustine and Rituximab in Subjects With Previously Untreated Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

With ABT-199 or GDC-0199:

A Study of GDC-0199 (ABT-199) in Combination With Obinutuzumab in Patients With Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

This is by no means a complete list. There are at least 222 trials when you search untreated CLL on

These trials are critical so we can finally prove, as I suspect, that moving these drugs upfront and avoiding chemo all together, is our best course for a long and healthy life.

There are a few other exciting early trials using ROR1 for relapsed disease that Dr. Kipps will be discussing in my next post, an interview from ASCO. ROR1 may prove to be the holy grail of a marker that is truly unique to the CLL cells, making it the perfect target for an anti-cancer drug.

This is with a very exciting and very specific antibody developed by Dr. Kipps' team at UCSD. It should be opening very soon.

This is from Dr. Wierda's team at MDACC and CLL Global Alliance, building on the promising work out of U. Penn with CART-T cells directed at the much less specific CD19.

Both these are phase 1 trials with all the risks and possible breakthroughs that come with being early to a new therapy. My ibrutinib trial, though later in development, was still a phase 1/2 trial.

There are growing choices out there for those of us facing therapy for the first time, and for those who have relapsed. 

Clinical trials are the only way our knowledge can grow, and the only way these drugs will ever become widely available.

And clinical trials are for many of us, especially in frontline settings, the only path to getting these new agents. 

Speaking of new drugs being available, July 28 was also the date that the FDA gave final approval for Ibrutinib for those who have received one prior therapy. The accelerated conditional approval six months ago had been based on phase 2 data, the final approval looked at the big phase 3 RESONATE trial data.

More from Dr. Kipps on ROR1 soon from our interview at ASCO 2014.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was reading about all of the clinical trials. My husband is in the ibrutinib/rituximab clinical trial at MDA (he has CLL/SLL p 17 deletion 12 trisomy with less than 20% in his marrow at the time of diagnosis in May 2014). He started the clinical trial and is doing very well (lymph nodes are all normal now and blood work is all normal now). He sees his clinical trial doctor and a transplant doctor, who is trying to talk him into SCT even though everything looks good. When he went for his infusion earlier this month, his clinical trial doctor told him that he would have another bone marrow pull and CT in October. His notes from the Sept visit stated that if my husband wasn't showing improvement, that there would be a restaging and discussion of SCT (which my husband is not wanting). Are there other clinical trials that he could try first?

September 24, 2014 at 1:30 PM  

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