Thursday, June 11, 2015

This Week in CLL: (chronic lymphocytic leukemia) Chemotherapy, News of the Helios Trial, New Drug Approvals and the High Cost of Cancer Medications

The annual humongous meeting of ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology) 2015 in Chicago did offer those of us with CLL ( chronic lymphocytic leukemia) a few interesting abstracts and one excellent education session, but this week we wanted to share some news unrelated to ASCO on our website.

This week on the CLL Society website we are posting news and educational material that relates in one way or another to chemotherapy, alone, in combos, and in trials.

We are adding another of my treatment monologues. This time I discuss what really is chemotherapy and how does it fit into the rapidly changing treatment paradigms for CLL. Spoiler alert: The key point here is that everything is changing, very fast. You can find that link here in the treatment section of the CLL Society website.

This is a good basic primer on what chemo is and isn't. The feedback from the earlier readers has been most gratifying. Please let me know what you think.

Just to emphasize the point of change coming, on June 4, 2015 the results of the final analysis of the Phase III RESONATE-2 were released comparing ibrutinib to chlorambucil in over-65 treatment-naïve patients, excluding those patients with deletion 17p. The big news is not that ibrutinib met its primary endpoint of better progression free survival (PFS) and secondary endpoints of better overall survival (OS) and overall response rate (ORR) as we might have predicted that based on the significant difference in the usual historical efficacy of the two drugs tested in prior trials. What is important about this Phase III trial for patients is that it is an important step towards getting FDA approval of ibrutinib as frontline therapy for those of us over 65.  The official press release can be found here and my commentary will be up on the CLL Society website on Wednesday, June 10, 2015 in the news section.

Finally, we share the good news that Quebec, home to my alma mater, McGill University, and often the leader in new therapies in Canada, is the first province to approve the use of obinituzumab (O) or Gazyva in combination with that same chlorambucil (C). On June 2, 2015, there was similar approval for patients in England and Wales. These two approvals on both sides of the Atlantic were based on the trial reported in NEJM in 2014 that demonstrated the superiority of the C-O over C-R (rituximab) or C alone in frailer patients with co-morbidities. That story and links to the original research can be found in the news section on Friday, June 12, 2015.

In our ongoing emphasis to consider clinical trials when making treatment decisions, we fielded another survey to explore search functions that CLL patients would want available in a CLL-specific Clinical Trials Search Engine. We're thankful to those patients and caregivers that took the time to complete the survey at the CLL Society booth during the CLL Patient Education and Empowerment Meeting prior to the CLL Clinical Research Consortium held in San Diego, CA from April 22-23, 2015. You can view those results in the Survey Results and Clinical Trials sections of the website on Friday, also.

One last thing: If you want to share your experience about how the high cost of our cancer meds impacts your care in a way that might make a difference, please contact me to discuss how we can get the word out.

On a personal note, I am still waiting for my final lab results form OSU, so I have nothing new to share.

I don't think I can keep up the pace of 4 new posts a week, but we will try to bring you the latest news and fill in the missing gaps as best and as fast as we can.


Stay strong

We are all in this together.

Brian Koffman
Volunteer Medical Director of the CLL Society
E- cancer advocate
Husband, father and grandfather

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there anyone you know who has been on ibrutinib, now has rapid changes on lung ct scans, showing ground glass nodules, chronic coughing?

June 12, 2015 at 1:08 AM  

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