Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Phase 1 Trials and My Advice on How to Survive and Be Your Own Best Advocate with CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia)


This week we have published helpful information from two patients on the CLL Society website.

The first is a thoughtful well-referenced editorial by Cynthia Havstad on the personal value of enrolling in a Phase 1 trial

Cynthia recently enrolled in a trial of a novel antibody directed against ROR1. This promising and very specific target is the culmination of decades of works by Dr. Kipps and his team at UCSD. For the background on why therapies directed against ROR1 are so exciting and details the trial, click here to watch my interview with Dr. Kipps. The link to the actual trial is found here.

To read Cynthia's helpful own story about her experience in considering a trial so early in a new drug's development and her actual experience please click here.

Without researchers such as Dr. Kipps and brave and smart patients such as Cynthia, we would not be making the amazing progress that we are in treating CLL.

The second patient we present this week is yours truly sharing my full 24 minute video from the CRC 2015 conference. My topic was pretty fundamental: Being our Own Advocate and Staying Alive with CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia).

It's a dense presentation.

First I briefly share my own 10-year history with CLL.

Self advocacy's risk (yes there are risks) and benefits are outlined.

Next I catalogue my advice in term of my personal three steps for mindful survival.
  2. ACT 
I tried to keep my counsel very practical and even a little fun, sharing my survival tips learned over my 10 years of struggles with an aggressive brand of CLL.

Some of these are broad overarching principles of dealing with a catastrophic illness, and some are very focused suggestions on getting the most out of a doctor's visit or a phone call with our insurance.

They include:
  • Put together your team (this is number one)
  • Become or find an expert.
  • Think laterally.
  • You always have time to make a decision, but you don't have forever.
  • Risk is impossible to eliminate.
  • You have to make decisions with imperfect and contradictory advice.
Lots more but it would be best if you can set aside 24 minutes and perhaps have a pad and paper handy.

The link to my video lecture is here


Please, please, please if you have your own survival and advocacy tips, share them with us at the CLL Society Community using http://cllsociety.org/contact-us/

We welcome your feedback.

As always, all our content is free with no requirement to sign in, but if you want to receive alerts about what's new so you don't miss any important fresh content, please sign up at http://cllsociety.org/newsletter-sign-up/


Stay strong

We are all in this together.

Brian Koffman
Volunteer Medical Director of the CLL Society

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

TITLE: CRC 2015: Dr. Neil Kay on Prognostic Indicators and Standard Early Care for CLL

This week’s new post on the CLL Society’s website brings us practical advice from Dr. Neil Kay out of  Mayo clinic on  prognostic indicators and how to manage early stage CLL. He also  discusses MBL or monoclonal B cell lymphocytosis a precursor to CLL.

Dr. Kay’s lecture and my commentary from the robust but accessible CLL Research Consortium (CRC) Patient Empowerment and Education Conference in April 2015 in San Diego at UCSD can be found under conference coverage here.

If you haven’t already seen Dr. Kipps’ incredible overview of CLL and the work the CRC does, please catch it here.

Brian Koffman (flying home after two weeks in Poland)

Volunteer Medical Director CLL Society

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

ESH 2014: The Future Role of FCR and new data on venetoclax and rituximab in CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia) and my latest lab results

I thought I sneak in one last post from LAX before I board my plane to Wroclaw, Poland via Munich.

It is mostly about the new posts on the CLL Society's website and our nonprofit's news, but I wanted to share that my latest lab results from my visit to the infusion center for IVIG remains most boring with a low normal hemoglobin, a high normal platelet count and an absolute lymphocyte count of 1.2.  YEAH! Of course that really matters is the count of clonal B cells and that takes flow cytometry, but at least I know that nothing major is happening. Slow and steady makes me happy.

This week on the CLL Society website we bring the second part of our interview with Professor Michael Hallek of Koln, Germany, the director of the German CLL Study Group and a major CLL researcher and thinker.

He starts by discussing his “fast boat” adaptive trial strategy (similar in many ways to that of Prof. Hillmen in the UK), essentially looking for the most tailored therapy based on not just predictive factors, but also on how we patients actually respond in trials. He is looking for what I call that perfect Goldilocks’ mix of “ as much as necessary, as little as possible” therapy.

In the second half of the interview, he makes a cogent argument for the ongoing use of FCR frontline in select patients. While many of us are not fans of chemo-immunotherapy (CIT), Professor Hallek has strong data to support his perspective. Listen with an open mind.

We also share my comments and background on an important oral abstract presented at the 20th Congress of the European Hematology Association (EHA), June 11-15, 2015 on venetoclax (ABT-199 or GDC-199) and rituximab. In relapsed patients, the total response rate, the complete response rate, the MRD- rate and the ability for some to be able to remain disease free after stopping the drug is important data that you can find here in our 2015 conference coverage section.

We have a significant backlog of important educational material mostly from large conferences such as ASH 2014 and others from 2015 that we plan to post over the next few months.

In a first step to speed up the process, our first high school intern volunteer, the granddaughter of the CLL Society's attorney, has joined us online to help her earn her community service hours by helping us catalog all the videos that we have produced and are storing on the web.

We are working hard to expand what we offer to the tens of thousands of online readers and to actuate our ambitious plans for patient-centric, physician-curated live education and support. One volunteer medical director (yours truly), his unpaid wife and one part-time RN can’t do it all, although I have to say we have made some amazing progress in our mission to meet the unmet needs of the CLL community in the less than 90 days since our nonprofit’s website launched. Our website is #1 in organic Google searches for CLL Society despite having no search engine optimization in place. We are too busy trying to get our content up.

There is so much more we must do. Your suggestions, help, support, donations, ideas, and feedback are what guide us and keep us going.

We remain forever committed to open content for all with no need to sign in or share any of your personal information to see a video or to get the help you need. If you haven’t done so already, we encourage you to please sign up to receive alerts regarding new postings and for our quarterly newsletters (first one will be published in September) and to share with other patients, caregivers or concerned family or anyone whose life is touched by CLL.

The CLL Society will be at iwCLL in Australia in September to cover the news and we are planning an amazing patient meeting the day before the researchers' meeting in Sydney with Lymphoma Australia. 

Stay strong.

We are all in this together.

Brian Koffman

Volunteer Medical Director, CLL Society

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