The promising investigational targeted therapy ibrutinib and its mechanism of silencing gene communication pathways critical to the development of cancer may be an effective way to combat chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), according to studies presented at the 54th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH).
CLL is a blood cancer that causes abnormal white blood cells called lymphocytes to accumulate in the blood, bone marrow, and in the lymph nodes or other organs, causing these organs to enlarge. Approximately 15,000 Americans are diagnosed with CLL every year; nearly 70 percent of those affected are 65 and older. , For some patients with slower growing disease, physicians employ “watch and wait” strategies to minimize unnecessary treatment. However, patients with high-risk features such as rapidly progressing disease require prompt treatment to manage symptoms and reduce organ damage.
Ibrutinib is a specialized anti-cancer therapy that targets the Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK, an enzyme important in the development of CLL). As an inhibitor of BTK, ibrutinib selectively targets leukemia cells, promoting their death and preventing them from growing while leaving normal cells unharmed. Studies suggest this design allows the drug to more effectively treat the disease, with encouraging early results in harder-to-treat patient groups such as elderly untreated patients and those whose disease has become resistant to other therapies or those who have experienced disease recurrence after receiving other therapies. Two studies will present efficacy and safety results testing the compound alone and in combination with other currently used therapies for CLL.
“The evidence collected to date on ibrutinib demonstrates that it may have the potential to improve long-term prognosis for patients who are not sensitive to standard treatment,” said Claire E. Dearden, MD, moderator of the press conference, Consultant Hematologist and Head of the CLL Unit at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London. “Equally important, the exciting efficacy and safety data that we are seeing for this drug in these studies underscore the significant progress we are making in our quest to better understand and attack the specific cellular targets responsible for CLL, particularly in these vulnerable patient populations.”
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