Thursday, May 7, 2015

Three Year Anniversary on Ibrutinib for my CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia)

A Man and his Pills

On May 7, 2012, I swallowed my first three battleship grey pills of PCI-32765, later to be known as ibrutinib and finally Imbruvica when approved by the FDA for relapsed/refractory CLL in February, 2014. For us early adapters, most of whom like me, are still doing well in the subsequent extension trial, it is still the same grey pill and it is still called PCI-32765.

Clinical Trial NCT01217749 or PCYC-1109-CA out of Ohio State University (OSU) was a phase 1b/2 trial mixing the then very new BTK inhibitor with the then newest antibody, ofatumumab. I was in the last of three cohort. My group received the monoclonal antibody first so I actually started the trial a few months before I got to the ibrutinib. Details are described here.

Turns out that my cohort did the poorest as a bunch. Better to use the oral signal blocker first or even simultaneously to empty most of the cancer cells out of the marrow and nodes where the antibody can pick them off with no interference from their microenvironment enablers. That's why we do trials: do figure this stuff out.

But statistics predict for groups and here I am three years later in a deep deep remission. My absolute lymph count is at the low end of normal at 1000 and only 0.8% of those cells are clonal. If we do the math with just a few calculations we figure out that I only have 8 cancer cells in each microliter of blood. That not bad for someone who has a complex karyotype, 17p and 11q deletions, ZAP 70+, unmutated, CD38+, and a failed transplant.

Excellent disease control and a very deep remission, but not MRD negative. And certainly not cured.

For that elusive cure, I and most CLL patients will need a cocktail, preferably of target therapies. Fortunately some researchers agree and such trials are opening up.

During these last three years my blog has morphed from talking about my ups and downs in managing my CLL into a more universal story about the changing research and treatment paradigms in our disease.

Our newly launched nonprofit's CLL Society website: will increasingly be taking on that educational role and my blog will return to being more my personal journey and the place for me to vent and pontificate.

Just this week, our website has several new articles: an article on the WHO statement on clinical trials, the news about the breakthrough therapy designation for ABT-199 or venetoclax for my fellow 17p deleted patients, and two cool interviews with Professor Roberts from Melbourne, part of our conference coverage,  which were done at ASH 2014. Dr. Roberts talks about the mechanism of action of and the early result with venetoclax or ABT-199, a drug that he helped develop in Australia.

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we will be adding new videos and articles, so check back frequently. Already on some days, the one month old is helping more folks affected by CLL than this venerable blog.

I have been asked by pessimists and worriers: How long and deep will the CLL Society's efforts at education, support, news, and advocacy continue? 

The answer is: As long as there is the need and the support for what we are doing, we will keep going.

Realistically, we desperately need to staff up in order to keep going at this pace and to expand what we are already doing. We have big plans that demand more than any one or two people can do, but we are just starting up and I am confident we will soon have the resources we need.

Stay strong.

We are all in this together.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the first day I was diagnosed in November 2013 you have given me hope and you continue to do so. For that, I am truly grateful. Your personal experience, your expertise and your dedication are inspiring!

May 8, 2015 at 8:10 AM  
Blogger Dr. La Verne said...

What are your needs with your non-profit? Let me know if there is something I can do to help.

May 9, 2015 at 11:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As one of the other posters mentioned, your blog has been one of the go to places for me since my diaganosis, in Spring, 2013.

I am also grateful that you are putting information out there that gives me hope. Your own personal battle is inspirational.

May 11, 2015 at 10:16 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Brian - priceless information. I admire your knowledge, energy and commitment. Thank you for all your effort.

May 11, 2015 at 5:21 PM  

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