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Concept: Small lymphocytic lymphoma


Background Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) primarily affects older persons who often have coexisting conditions in addition to disease-related immunosuppression and myelosuppression. We conducted an international, open-label, randomized phase 3 trial to compare two oral agents, ibrutinib and chlorambucil, in previously untreated older patients with CLL or small lymphocytic lymphoma. Methods We randomly assigned 269 previously untreated patients who were 65 years of age or older and had CLL or small lymphocytic lymphoma to receive ibrutinib or chlorambucil. The primary end point was progression-free survival as assessed by an independent review committee. Results The median age of the patients was 73 years. During a median follow-up period of 18.4 months, ibrutinib resulted in significantly longer progression-free survival than did chlorambucil (median, not reached vs. 18.9 months), with a risk of progression or death that was 84% lower with ibrutinib than that with chlorambucil (hazard ratio, 0.16; P<0.001). Ibrutinib significantly prolonged overall survival; the estimated survival rate at 24 months was 98% with ibrutinib versus 85% with chlorambucil, with a relative risk of death that was 84% lower in the ibrutinib group than in the chlorambucil group (hazard ratio, 0.16; P=0.001). The overall response rate was higher with ibrutinib than with chlorambucil (86% vs. 35%, P<0.001). The rates of sustained increases from baseline values in the hemoglobin and platelet levels were higher with ibrutinib. Adverse events of any grade that occurred in at least 20% of the patients receiving ibrutinib included diarrhea, fatigue, cough, and nausea; adverse events occurring in at least 20% of those receiving chlorambucil included nausea, fatigue, neutropenia, anemia, and vomiting. In the ibrutinib group, four patients had a grade 3 hemorrhage and one had a grade 4 hemorrhage. A total of 87% of the patients in the ibrutinib group are continuing to take ibrutinib. Conclusions Ibrutinib was superior to chlorambucil in previously untreated patients with CLL or small lymphocytic lymphoma, as assessed by progression-free survival, overall survival, response rate, and improvement in hematologic variables. (Funded by Pharmacyclics and others; RESONATE-2 number, NCT01722487 .).

Concepts: Cancer, Chemotherapy, Relative risk, Hematology, Leukemia, Lymphoma, Blood disorders, Small lymphocytic lymphoma


Background In patients with chronic lymphoid leukemia (CLL) or small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL), a short duration of response to therapy or adverse cytogenetic abnormalities are associated with a poor outcome. We evaluated the efficacy of ibrutinib, a covalent inhibitor of Bruton’s tyrosine kinase, in patients at risk for a poor outcome. Methods In this multicenter, open-label, phase 3 study, we randomly assigned 391 patients with relapsed or refractory CLL or SLL to receive daily ibrutinib or the anti-CD20 antibody ofatumumab. The primary end point was the duration of progression-free survival, with the duration of overall survival and the overall response rate as secondary end points. Results At a median follow-up of 9.4 months, ibrutinib significantly improved progression-free survival; the median duration was not reached in the ibrutinib group (with a rate of progression-free survival of 88% at 6 months), as compared with a median of 8.1 months in the ofatumumab group (hazard ratio for progression or death in the ibrutinib group, 0.22; P<0.001). Ibrutinib also significantly improved overall survival (hazard ratio for death, 0.43; P=0.005). At 12 months, the overall survival rate was 90% in the ibrutinib group and 81% in the ofatumumab group. The overall response rate was significantly higher in the ibrutinib group than in the ofatumumab group (42.6% vs. 4.1%, P<0.001). An additional 20% of ibrutinib-treated patients had a partial response with lymphocytosis. Similar effects were observed regardless of whether patients had a chromosome 17p13.1 deletion or resistance to purine analogues. The most frequent nonhematologic adverse events were diarrhea, fatigue, pyrexia, and nausea in the ibrutinib group and fatigue, infusion-related reactions, and cough in the ofatumumab group. Conclusions Ibrutinib, as compared with ofatumumab, significantly improved progression-free survival, overall survival, and response rate among patients with previously treated CLL or SLL. (Funded by Pharmacyclics and Janssen; RESONATE number, NCT01578707 .).

Concepts: Cancer, Survival analysis, Hematology, Leukemia, Lymphoma, Blood disorders, Statistical ratios, Small lymphocytic lymphoma


Ibrutinib is an orally administered inhibitor of Bruton tyrosine kinase that antagonizes B-cell receptor, chemokine, and integrin-mediated signaling. In early-phase studies, ibrutinib demonstrated high response rates and prolonged progression-free survival (PFS) in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The durable responses observed with ibrutinib relate in part to a modest toxicity profile that allows the majority of patients to receive continuous therapy for an extended period. We report on median 3-year follow-up of 132 patients with symptomatic treatment-naïve and relapsed/refractory CLL or small lymphocytic lymphoma. Longer treatment with ibrutinib was associated with improvement in response quality over time and durable remissions. Toxicity with longer follow-up diminished with respect to occurrence of grade 3 or greater cytopenias, fatigue, and infections. Progression remains uncommon, occurring primarily in some patients with relapsed del(17)(p13.1) and/or del(11)(q22.3) disease. Treatment-related lymphocytosis remains largely asymptomatic even when persisting >1 year and does not appear to alter longer-term PFS and overall survival compared with patients with partial response or better. Collectively, these data provide evidence that ibrutinib controls CLL disease manifestations and is well tolerated for an extended period; this information can help direct potential treatment options for different subgroups to diminish the long-term risk of relapse.

Concepts: Lymphocyte, Cancer, Signal transduction, Protein kinase, Leukemia, Lymphoma, Blood disorders, Small lymphocytic lymphoma


Chronic lymphocytic leukemia and small lymphocytic lymphoma are 2 different presentations of the most common B-cell neoplasm in western countries (CLL/SLL). In this disease, kidney involvement is usually silent, and is rarely reported in the literature. This study provides a clinicopathological analysis of all-cause kidney disease in CLL/SLL patients.

Concepts: Cancer, B cell, Hematology, Leukemia, Lymphoma, Blood disorders, Hematopathology, Small lymphocytic lymphoma


Chemoimmunotherapy has led to improved numbers of patients achieving disease response, and longer overall survival in young patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia; however, its application in elderly patients has been restricted by substantial myelosuppression and infection. We aimed to assess safety and activity of ibrutinib, an orally administered covalent inhibitor of Bruton tyrosine kinase (BTK), in treatment-naive patients aged 65 years and older with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

Concepts: Cancer, Protein kinase, Hematology, Leukemia, B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia, Small lymphocytic lymphoma


Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have previously identified 13 loci associated with risk of chronic lymphocytic leukemia or small lymphocytic lymphoma (CLL). To identify additional CLL susceptibility loci, we conducted the largest meta-analysis for CLL thus far, including four GWAS with a total of 3,100 individuals with CLL (cases) and 7,667 controls. In the meta-analysis, we identified ten independent associated SNPs in nine new loci at 10q23.31 (ACTA2 or FAS (ACTA2/FAS), P = 1.22 × 10(-14)), 18q21.33 (BCL2, P = 7.76 × 10(-11)), 11p15.5 (C11orf21, P = 2.15 × 10(-10)), 4q25 (LEF1, P = 4.24 × 10(-10)), 2q33.1 (CASP10 or CASP8 (CASP10/CASP8), P = 2.50 × 10(-9)), 9p21.3 (CDKN2B-AS1, P = 1.27 × 10(-8)), 18q21.32 (PMAIP1, P = 2.51 × 10(-8)), 15q15.1 (BMF, P = 2.71 × 10(-10)) and 2p22.2 (QPCT, P = 1.68 × 10(-8)), as well as an independent signal at an established locus (2q13, ACOXL, P = 2.08 × 10(-18)). We also found evidence for two additional promising loci below genome-wide significance at 8q22.3 (ODF1, P = 5.40 × 10(-8)) and 5p15.33 (TERT, P = 1.92 × 10(-7)). Although further studies are required, the proximity of several of these loci to genes involved in apoptosis suggests a plausible underlying biological mechanism.

Concepts: Genetics, Leukemia, Lymphoma, Genome-wide association study, Blood disorders, Bcl-2, Genetic epidemiology, Small lymphocytic lymphoma


In the Asia-Pacific region, treatment options are limited for patients with relapsed/refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)/small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL). Rituximab is widely used in this setting when purine analog-based therapies are not appropriate. We evaluated the efficacy and safety of ibrutinib compared with rituximab in a randomized, open-label phase 3 study in predominantly Asian patients with relapsed/refractory CLL/SLL. Patients (N = 160) were randomly assigned 2:1 to receive 420 mg ibrutinib (n = 106) until disease progression (PD) or unacceptable toxicity or up to six cycles of rituximab (n = 54). The primary endpoint was investigator-assessed progression-free survival (PFS); key secondary endpoints were overall response rate (ORR), overall survival (OS), and safety. Rituximab-treated patients could crossover to receive ibrutinib after confirmed PD. At data cutoff, median treatment duration was 16.4 months for ibrutinib and 4.6 months for rituximab. Ibrutinib significantly improved PFS (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.180, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.105-0.308). ORR was significantly higher (P < 0.0001) with ibrutinib (53.8%) than with rituximab (7.4%). At a median follow-up of 17.8 months, ibrutinib improved OS compared with rituximab (HR = 0.446; 95% CI: 0.221-0.900; P = 0.0206). Overall incidence of adverse events (AEs) was similar between treatments and was not exposure-adjusted. With ibrutinib, most common AEs were diarrhea and platelet count decreased; with rituximab, most common AEs were neutrophil count decreased and platelet count decreased. Grade ≥3 AEs were reported in 82.7% of ibrutinib-treated patients and 59.6% of rituximab-treated patients. Ibrutinib improved PFS, ORR, and OS compared with rituximab and displayed a manageable safety profile in Asian patients with relapsed/refractory CLL/SLL.

Concepts: Chemotherapy, Types of cancer, Leukemia, Lymphoma, Blood disorders, B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia, Asia-Pacific, Small lymphocytic lymphoma


Depending on the location and the extent of disease, mature B-cell disorders can be divided into 
benign monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis (MBL), chronic 
lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) and small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL). Whereas SLL is characterised by its location outside the blood stream, MBL is distinguished from CLL by a monoclonal B-cell count below 5 × 109/l. Due to its low tendency to transform into CLL, correct diagnosis of MBL is essential. We hypothesised that this might not always be the case.

Concepts: White blood cell, Lymphocyte, B cell, Hematology, Leukemia, Lymphoma, Blood disorders, Small lymphocytic lymphoma


Venetoclax is licensed to treat relapsed or refractory (R/R) chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL). As part of the Single Technology Appraisal (STA) ID944, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) invited AbbVie, the manufacturer, to submit evidence on the use of venetoclax, within its licensed indication. The Evidence Review Group (ERG), Warwick Evidence, was asked to provide an independent and critical review of the submitted evidence. Evidence came from three single-arm trials in CLL patients with or without 17p deletion [del(17p])/TP53 chromosomal abnormalities. The anticipated licensed indication specified that venetoclax-eligible del(17p)/TP53 patients should have not responded to, or be deemed unsuitable for, B-cell receptor inhibitor (BCRi) therapy, and that non-del(17p)/TP53 patients should have not responded to both chemoimmunotherapy and BCRi therapy. The three trials were heterogeneous in terms of both del(17p)/TP53 status and previous exposure to BCRi therapy. The M13-982 study investigated 158 R/R CLL patients with the 17p deletion, but only a small number had received previous BCRi therapy; the M12-175 study investigated 67 patients with CLL or small lymphocytic lymphoma, some with the 17p deletion, but very few previously treated with BCRi therapy; and the M14-032 study included 105 patients previously treated with BCRi therapy (either idelalisib or ibrutinib), some of whom had unknown mutation status. The ERG concluded that the study populations did not directly conform to those specified in the licensed indication or in the NICE scope. Outcomes reported included overall response rate (ORR), duration of response, progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS); adverse events were reported for the pooled population of all three studies, as well as separately for each study. The median PFS was 41.4 and 27.2 months among patients in the M12-175 and M13-982 trials, respectively, whereas the median PFS was not reached in the M14-032 trial. Some results were designated academic in confidence and cannot be reported here. The submission provided a de novo partitioned survival cost-effectiveness model with three health states: pre-progression, post-progression and dead. Transition probabilities between health states were estimated using Weibull models for PFS and OS. The ERG judged the model structure to be appropriate. Venetoclax was compared with best supportive care (BSC) in patients with or without del(17p)/TP53 mutation status, and with palliative care (PC). To populate the del(17p)/TP53 venetoclax arm, the submission pooled del(17p)/TP53 patients from all three studies and fitted Weibull models for PFS and OS. PFS and OS models for non-del(17p)/TP53 venetoclax patients were obtained by applying hazard ratios (HRs) to the del(17p)/TP53 OS and PFS models, derived using Cox’s regression analysis comparing del(17p)/TP53 and non-del(17p)/TP53 patients pooled from the M14-032 and M12-175 studies. The ERG expressed reservations about the company’s pooling procedure, but acknowledged its expedience given the small evidence base. For the BSC comparator arm, the submission used the rituximab + placebo arm from a randomised controlled trial comparing idelalisib + rituximab versus placebo + rituximab (‘study 116’). Weibull regression data for OS and PFS were taken from the idelalisib STA (ID764) submitted by Gilead to NICE. The ERG considered the use of the study 116 rituximab arm to be inconsistent with the licensed indication for venetoclax because these patients had neither not responded to nor were inappropriate for BCRi therapy, being eligible to be randomised to idelalisib. Another difficulty was the requirement for a technical correction in survival analysis because of considerable switching from rituximab to idelalisib. The ERG considered that post-progression survival of patients from the idelalisib arm of study 116 provided a more appropriate representation of BSC since these patients had not responded to BCRi therapy, consistent with venetoclax’s licensed indication. For PC, the company submission used data from the UK CLL Forum. The company’s base-case analysis indicated that venetoclax was clinically effective, but the resulting incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs) for del(17p)/TP53 (£39,940/quality-adjusted life-year [QALY] gained) and non-del(17p)/TP53 (£47,370/QALY gained) patients were well above the NICE threshold of £20,000-30,000/QALY. The ERG identified two errors in the implementation of the company’s parametric models-one related to the implementation of HRs, and the other to the derivation of the Weibull shape parameters obtained from the Gilead idelalisib submission. The ERG made plausible adjustments to the company’s base-case and corrected errors, resulting in a reduced estimate of the cost effectiveness of venetoclax in non-del(17p)/TP53 and del(17p)/TP53 indications; in the ERG’s preferred base case, using post-progression survival of patients in the idelalisib arm of study 116 as the BSC comparator, deterministic ICERs were higher than the company’s base-case for both indications: £57,476/QALY gained for del(17p)/TP53 and £77,779/QALY gained for non-del(17p)/TP53. The NICE Appraisal Committee’s preliminary recommendation was that venetoclax used within its licensed indication should not be recommended for use in the National Health Service (NHS). In response to the preliminary recommendation, the company submitted new analyses; however, at a subsequent appraisal committee meeting, the original recommendation was upheld and the committee concluded there were large uncertainties around the clinical effectiveness of venetoclax and BSC, and that under the committee’s preferred assumptions, the ICERs were higher than those generally considered cost effective, even when end-of-life criteria were taken into account. The company submitted further evidence, and the final guidance recommended venetoclax for use with the Cancer Drugs Fund for the two populations in this technology appraisal.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Health economics, Clinical trial, Randomized controlled trial, Leukemia, Cost-effectiveness analysis, Weibull distribution, Small lymphocytic lymphoma


Small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL) is considered as the non-leukemic form of presentation of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). We have compared the features, genomic alterations, and outcome of 890 patients with CLL and SLL. One hundred and thirteen patients presented as SLL and more frequently had unmutated-IGHV, CD38(high), ZAP-70(high), CD49d(high), +12, alterations in genes of NOTCH1, cell cycle, RNA metabolism, and NFkB pathways than CLL. During the follow-up, 46% of SLL patients developed CLL. Time to first treatment (TTFT) was shorter in SLL (10-year: 75% vs 62%; p = .006). Binet stage, SLL, and IGHV were independent predictive factors for TTFT. Transformation to diffuse large B-cell lymphoma was higher (10-year: 12% vs 6%; p = .003), and overall survival was shorter in SLL (10-year: 55% vs 66%; p = .004). When A0 CLL patients were excluded, only CD38 and CD49d expression, +12, and 10-year TTFT remained different between the SLL and CLL patients. In summary, SLL showed only minor clinicobiological differences when compared with CLL in similar clinical stages.

Concepts: B cell, Types of cancer, Hematology, Leukemia, Lymphoma, Blood disorders, Hematopathology, Small lymphocytic lymphoma