A New Drug Combination May Provide an Effective Treatment for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

A phase 3 Murano clinical trial has shown that combining the drugs Venclexta (venetoclax) and Rituxan (rituximab) could be an effective treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, reports Cancer Updates, Research, and Education.

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is a form of cancer that affects white blood cells. It develops when the bone marrow produces lots of white blood cells, known as lymphocytes, that do not function properly. As a result, patients may experience symptoms such as frequent infection, tiredness, swollen glands, and bleeding or bruising. However, these symptoms often take a while to manifest due to the slow progression of the disease. People with the condition are usually treated with chemotherapy and stem cell or bone marrow transplants to replace the damaged white blood cells. Although there is not currently a cure for CLL, these treatment options can slow or stop disease progression, and through careful monitoring, treatment can be repeated if CLL re-occurs.

Developing treatments for CLL is a promising area of research at the moment. Alan Skarbnik, M.D., who works at the John Theurer Cancer Centre, has said,

“The idea that CLL is an incurable disease is changing.”

One recent development is the promising results of the phase 3 Murano trial. It compared two groups of patients with refractory or relapsed CLL who had previously undergone chemotherapy. One group was given the experimental combination of Venclexta and Rituxan (VR) and the other was given bensamustine and Rituxan (BR). This found that administering VR improved patient progression-free survival rates over two years to 84.9%, compared with 36.3% for patients taking BR. The overall response rate was also higher; 93.3% for VR patients versus 67.7% for BR patients. Importantly, 60% of patients taking the new VR combination showed no detectable leukaemia cells after nine months of treatment, while this was only true for 13% of patients taking BR.

The results of the experimental combination of Venclexta and Rituxan are therefore promising and suggest that it may be an effective treatment for patients with CLL.

Anna Hewitt

Anna Hewitt

Anna is from England and recently finished her undergraduate degree. She has an interest in medicine and enjoys writing. In her spare time she likes to cook, hike, and hang out with cats.

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