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ASCO 2014: Dr. Kipps on ABT-199 and More on CLL (chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia): "Cancer is Not an Alien from Outer Space, Cancer is Us"

By Bkoffman
ASCO 2014: Kipps ABT-199 More (chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia):
More mural work from my son, Ben Koffman
In this final segment of my three part interview from ASCO 2014, my doctor, Dr. Kipps out of the Moore Cancer Center at UCSD, explains as only he can about the competing roles of Bcl-2 and BIM in our malignant B cell clone and how ABT-199 resets that balance in our favor in our malignant B cells.
Here are links to part one and part two of the same interview. They will help set up and give perspective on this longer final segment.
Before you turn off when you hear mention of yet another B cell pathway, please listen to his helpful buttress explanation that explains why this therapy, especially in combinations with other agents, promises a possible cure with no cytotoxic chemotherapy with little collateral damage.
This specific cell death mechanism is particularly active in our malignant B cells. Accordingly, it makes sense as an even more potent target than is blocking B cell communication though the the B-cell receptor (BCR). Blocking BCR activity is likely a major mechanism for the outstanding success of the two newly approved targeted oral agents, idelalisib and ibrutinib. ABT-199 works differently. It works directly on the cell's life and death pathway.
As those who have read my prior post know too well, ABT-199's very potency is its weakness too. It can kill the cancer so fast there is a risk that the kidneys can't keep up with the flood of intracellular toxins spilling out of the millions and millions of lysed (broken down) cancer cells. Tragically, at least two deaths have occurred from this tumor lysis syndrome (TLS), and as a result the whole ABT-199 trial strategy was stopped and than revamped, but it's now back and better.
In other posts, I discussed one tragic death that happened in the trial and argue strongly then that its development be continued and I am so glad that has happened.
But when ABT-199 gets out of trials and into the larger community, I worry that TLS may start to reoccur if the education of the community doctors and their patients is not strong enough.
That, my friends, is one of my major goals here and elsewhere: to inform my fellow patients and providers of the changing landscape in managing CLL so we can make smart decisions and get the care we need.
But ABT-199 has gotten some patients to MRD negative status and even allowed durable disease control long after the med is stopped. That is very exciting and appears to be significantly different from the usual results seen with idelalisib and ibrutinib.
In the past I have argued of reducing the tumor burden with Imbruvica or Zydelig, perhaps with a mAB (monoclonal antibody) such as obinituzumab or rituximab, and then cleaning up any residual disease with ABT-199.
I am happy to say that is now a research direction that is being actively pursued.
It's too early to predict how ABT-199 will fit in the mix, but I predict it will play an important role in the future. The bar already has been set high with the robust responses already seen with the first two approved TKIs. It is not unreasonable to dream that the significant extra kick from ABT-199 or one of the new agents could push us to cure.
So  happy to see more research. We must keep pushing for more evolved therapies that offer cure, not just disease control. (Not that I am complaining about the recent advances that have positively changed my life and that of of so many other CLL patients.)
Later I will comment on the recently announced combination of the PD-1 immune checkpoint inhibitor nivolumab (Opdivo) and the oral BTK inhibitor ibrutinib (Imbruvica) in a phase I/II trial for patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). This is another promising and bold path that has me pretty excited.
But before, we move on, Dr. Kipps has more news for us patients from ASCO 2014.
In the last few minutes of the interview, Dr. Kipps takes a step back and forces us to consider a different perspective on the nature of cancer in general and CLL in particular. He reminds us of cancer's primitive embryonic nature and how ROR1, an embryonic antigen, might be a major player not just in CLL but in other metastatic cancers such as prostrate or ovary too. Thinking about cancer and CLL in this way opens us the possibility for new avenues of research and therapy. The anti-ROR1 mAB is a step in that direction.
When I saw, Dr. Michael Keating from MDACC at the AACR hematology meeting last month in Philadelphia,  he told me he is betting on ROR1 as the path to cure.
When Drs. Kipps and Keating agree, it is worth listening. And considering a ROR1 trial.
Please enjoy my interview with Dr. Kipps.

More soon. (By the way, my ASCO 2014 goatee is long gone.)
This is my crazy season of traveling and teaching, so please forgive my tardiness in posting.
I will be at the LRF conference this Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014 in Manhattan Beach, so please join me and say hello. If you have never attended a LRF conference, they are worthwhile on so many ways. Do come and learn and meet fellow patients.
We are all in this together.If you want a personal response, or just want to stay in touch, please email me at bkoffmanMD@gmail.com. I have no other way of contacting. Thanks. Stay strong. After all, we are all in this together.

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