Nav: Home

New leukemia drug is more effective and easier to use

January 11, 2019

MAYWOOD, IL - A landmark study co-authored by a Loyola Medicine oncologist has found that a newer targeted drug is significantly more effective than standard therapy for treating elderly patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

The drug, ibrutinib, attacks cancer cells without damaging normal cells, thus causing fewer side effects. The drug is taken as a pill once a day - much more convenient than the standard treatment requiring the patient to come in three times a month for infusions and an injection.

"Ibrutinib should become the new standard of care," said Loyola oncologist Scott Smith, MD, PhD, one of the senior authors of the study, which was published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved ibrutinib (brand name, Imbruvica) for treatment of CLL.

Dr. Smith is a professor in the division of ematology/oncology, department of medicine of Loyola Medicine and Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. He was executive officer of the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, which coordinated the study, and was responsible for the execution of the study.

CLL, a disease of the immune system, is the most common form of leukemia in adults. It affects mainly older adults, with the average age of diagnosis around 70. The risk is higher in men.

Until now, the standard treatment has been a combination of a chemotherapy drug (bendamustine) that kills cancer cells and an immunotherapy drug (rituximab) that suppresses the immune system.

The study enrolled 547 CLL patients (67 percent male) at 219 centers in the United States and Canada. All were older than 65, with a median age of 71. Researchers randomly assigned patients to receive one of three regimens: the standard treatment of bendamustine plus rituximab; ibrutinib alone; or ibrutinib plus rituximab. After two years, 87 percent of patients receiving ibrutinib alone were alive without any disease progression, compared with 74 percent of patients who received bendamustine plus rituximab. There was no significant difference between patients receiving ibrutinib alone and those receiving ibrutinib plus rituximab.

About 17 percent of patients who received ibrutinib alone experienced an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation. But overall, the drug caused fewer side effects than the standard treatment, Dr. Smith said.

Additional studies of ibrutinib are underway in CLL patients younger than age 65, Dr. Smith said.
-end-
The study, published Dec. 27, 2018, is titled "Ibrutinib Regimens versus Chemoimmunotherapy in Older Patients with Untreated CLL." First author is Jennifer Woyach, MD, of Ohio State University.

As an academic medical center, Loyola is able to offer hundreds of cancer clinical trials, giving patients access to many new cancer drugs and therapies that are not available at most hospitals. Therapies under study at Loyola include targeted therapy, immunotherapy and new forms of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Loyola University Health System

Related Leukemia Articles:

New leukemia treatment outperforms standard chemotherapies
Researchers at The Australian National University (ANU) are working on a new treatment for an aggressive type of leukemia that outperforms standard chemotherapies.
Team uncovers novel epigenetic changes in leukemia
UT Health San Antonio researchers discovered epigenetic changes that contribute to one-fifth of cases of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), an aggressive cancer that arises out of the blood-forming cells in bone marrow.
Gene mutations cause leukemia, but which ones?
Watanabe-Smith's research, published today in the journal Oncotarget, sought to better understand one 'typo' in a standard leukemia assay, or test.
Halting lethal childhood leukemia
Scientists have discovered the genetic driver of a lethal childhood leukemia that affects newborns and infants and identified a targeted molecular therapy that halts the proliferation of leukemic cells.
Obesity-associated protein could be linked to leukemia development
Cancer researchers at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine have found an obesity-associated protein's role in leukemia development and drug response which could lead to more effective therapies for the illness.
Tracking down therapy-resistant leukemia cells
Dr. Irmela Jeremias from Helmholtz Zentrum München and her colleagues have succeeded in finding a small population of inactive leukemia cells that is responsible for relapse of the disease.
Personalizing chemotherapy to treat pediatric leukemia
A team of UCLA bioengineers has demonstrated that its technology may go a long way toward overcoming the challenges of treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, among the most common types of cancer in children, and has the potential to help doctors personalize drug doses.
Putting a brake on leukemia cells
Cancer cells need a lot of energy in order to divide without limits.
Study provides new clues to leukemia resurgence after chemotherapy
For the first time, researchers have discovered that some leukemia cells harvest energy resources from normal cells during chemotherapy, helping the cancer cells not only to survive, but actually thrive, after treatment.
Improving models of chronic lymphocytic leukemia
In this issue of JCI Insight, Nicholas Chiorazzi and colleagues at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research sought to understand a model of chronic lymphocytic leukemia in which patient cancer cells are transplanted into immunocompromised mice.

Related Leukemia Reading:

Acute Leukemia: An Illustrated Guide to Diagnosis and Treatment
by Ashkan Emadi MD PhD (Editor), Judith E. Karp MD (Editor)

Leukemia: From Diagnosis to Winning the Battle
by Ryan Woelfel (Author), MD Robert Brian Berryman (Foreword), Connie Kouba (Foreword)

Childhood Leukemia: A Guide for Families, Friends & Caregivers
by Nancy Keene (Author)

Lymphomas and Leukemias: Cancer: Principles & Practice of Oncology, 10th edition
by Vincent T. DeVita Jr. MD (Author), Theodore S. Lawrence MD PhD (Author), Steven A. Rosenberg MD PhD (Author)

Childhood Leukemia: A Guide for Families, Friends & Caregivers (Childhood Cancer Guides)
by Nancy Keene (Author)

Six Years and Counting: Love, Leukemia, and the Long Road Onward
by Outskirts Press, Inc.

My Daddy Is a Leukemia Super Hero
by Rebecca Shipe (Author)

Johns Hopkins Patients' Guide to Leukemia
by Candis Morrison (Author), Charles L. Hesdorffer (Author)

The Philadelphia Chromosome: A Genetic Mystery, a Lethal Cancer, and the Improbable Invention of a Lifesaving Treatment
by Jessica Wapner (Author), Robert A. Weinberg PhD (Foreword)

100 Questions & Answers About Leukemia
by Jones & Bartlett Learning

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Approaching With Kindness
We often forget to say the words "thank you." But can those two words change how you — and those around you — look at the world? This hour, TED speakers on the power of gratitude and appreciation. Guests include author AJ Jacobs, author and former baseball player Mike Robbins, Dr. Laura Trice, Professor of Management Christine Porath, and former Danish politician Özlem Cekic.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#509 Anisogamy: The Beginning of Male and Female
This week we discuss how the sperm and egg came to be, and how a difference of reproductive interest has led to sexual conflict in bed bugs. We'll be speaking with Dr. Geoff Parker, an evolutionary biologist credited with developing a theory to explain the evolution of two sexes, about anisogamy, sexual reproduction through the fusion of two different gametes: the egg and the sperm. Then we'll speak with Dr. Roberto Pereira, research scientist in urban entomology at the University of Florida, about traumatic insemination in bed bugs.