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Want to Avoid Chemotherapy Or Taking an Expensive Medication Forever for Your CLL (chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia)? I May Have a Clinical Trial for You.

By Bkoffman
Want to avoid chemotherapy or taking an expensive medication forever for your CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia)? I may have a clinical trial for you.
I and many others have railed against chemotherapy for our CLL. It may give us a long remission, or not.  Your mileage will vary and those of us with anything but the best prognostics can be pretty sure that we will relapse too soon for our liking with a nastier clone. FCR may even cure a few very select low risk patients, though that is yet to be proven. But at what cost?  Possible bone marrow damage and immunosuppression leading to low blood counts, infections, and secondary cancers.
Many of us also worry about the risks and cost of being on a life long medication no matter how targeted and patient friendly it might be. This fear is not so much based on any evidence of a problem (as there are not many problems and the data generally keeps getting better as the years roll along), but more based on the opposite: the lack of evidence with any of the new oral agents about their real long term safety, because no one had been on them for more than five years at this time.
So that is why this trial at UCSD with Dr. Januario Castro deserves our consideration. Besides being the innovator in the research on HDMP, Dr. Castro is a super nice guy.


The team of Drs. Kipps and Castro and more recently Choi has been a leader for years in innovative less toxic treatments for CLL. HDMP especially in combination with rituximab or ofatumumab has proven efficacy in all flavors of CLL including those of us with the stubborn 17p deletion. Here is link to an article on HDMP+R in frontline therapy. I quote:" With over 3 years of follow-up median progression-free survival was 30.3 months with only 39% of patients requiring additional therapy, and an overall survival was 96%" Similar results have been published here with HPMP + ofatumumab.
There are reasons to believe that this new trial may do even better. Obinutuzumab is a more potent mAb (monoclonal antibody) than its predecessors.  Remember that when it was combined with chlorambucil it proved superior to ritximab: This abstract from NEJM states: "Treatment with obinutuzumab–chlorambucil, as compared with rituximab–chlorambucil, resulted in prolongation of progression-free survival.Its20.7% complete response rate in combination with wimpy chlorambucil is also encouraging, so it suggests that adding Gazyva to another cytotoxic agent, in this case HDMP makes good sense.
Not that either HDMP or obinutuzumab are without their risks. HDMP can cause a short term increase chance of serious infections, diabetes, fluid retention and psychiatric issues to mention but a few of the possible adverse events. Gazyva can be associated with scary infusion reactions. One definitely needs a team that has experience with this heavy weight arsenal. USCD certainly does. And the good news is that neither therapy is myelosuppressive and neither should have long term sequelae.
The rap against HDMP, justified or not, is that the remissions have not been that durable. This trial hopes to squash that story.
So are you interested?
The best news is that unlike other trials for attractive therapies where inclusion criteria may be fairly narrow, this trial welcomes nearly all comers. See below. I especially like: A. Documented refusal to be treated with chemotherapy agents. Do you think patient advocates may have been a factor in kicking open the gate that wide? Here are some of the inclusion criteria copied from clinical
Laboratory parameters as specified below:
  • Hematologic: Hemoglobin > 8 g/dL (may be post-transfusion); platelet count > 40 x103/mm3 (may be post-transfusion). Absolute neutrophil count > 1.0 109 cells/mm3 (Growth factor use is allowed).
  • Hepatic: Total Bilirubin < 3 x ULN, and ALT and AST < 3 x ULN
  • Renal: Creatinine clearance > 30 mL/min (Calculated according to institutional standards or using Cockcroft-Gault formula. Subjects with requirement of hemodialysis will be excluded).

Subjects can be enrolled and treated under this protocol regardless of their CLL treatment history or number of previous treatments. In addition, subjects with history of allogeneic stem cell transplant can be enrolled and treated unless they have active manifestations of graft vs. host disease (GVHD) or chronic illness or infections that will prevent them from completing the study.

Previously untreated subjects that meet ANY of the following criteria: A. Documented refusal to be treated with chemotherapy agents. B. Subjects that are not candidates for treatment with chemotherapy based on poor performance status (ECOG ≥ 2), advance age (> 65 years), Cumulative Illness Rating Scale (CIRS score) ≥ 6 or cytopenias.

These are extraordinarily liberal rules for eligibility for any trial.
I don't know where HDMP+OB will fit in. No-one does. That's why we need this trial. It is particularly attractive to anyone who want to avoid chemo (who doesn't), is willing to document their reluctance, and does not qualify for other non-chemo trials. But it also should appeal to any of us with 17p deletion or any of us who just want to have six months of non-chemo treatment and then hopefully coast for a long long while.
It's all a gamble: hope as I am doing to ride a TKI (ibrutinib) into the happy ever after sunset or whack the CLL hard monthly for half a year and pray that it is so far gone that it ain't ever coming back.
Want to avoid chemotherapy or taking an expensive medication forever for your CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia)? I may have a clinical trial for you.
Sunset at Corona del Mar


If you want a personal response, or just want to stay in touch, please email me at [email protected]. I have no other way of contacting. Thanks. Stay strong. After all, we are all in this together.

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