First Chemotherapy-Free Combination Treatment Approved For Waldrenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia

According to a story from BioSpace, the biopharmaceutical company AbbVie recently announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new combination treatment for Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia (WM). This combination consists of rituximab and ibrutinib, the latter of which was developed by a subsidiary of the company and was first approved as a treatment for WM five years ago.

About Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia

Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia (WM) is a rare type of blood cancer which affects plasma cells and lymphoplasmacytoid cells. Both of these are types of white blood cells. This is a slow spreading form of lymphoma, and it is characterized by abnormally high levels of the antibody IgM, which is produced by the affected cells. There are many potential risk factors for WM, including family history, certain mutations, a history of autoimmune disease with autoantibodies, rickettsiosis, liver inflammation, and HIV. Symptoms can include enlargement of the spleen, lymph nodes, or liver, weight loss, bleeding from the nose and gums, fatigue, and weakness. Exposure to wood dust or pesticides could also increase the risk. There is no single accepted treatment plan for WM, but can include targeted therapies, such as ibrutinib, chemotherapy, corticosteroids, and bone marrow transplant. To learn more about WM, click here.

No Chemo? No Problem

This approval is the ninth one for ibrutinib since it was first introduced to the market. The new combination also represents the first that does not include chemotherapy. This is important because some patients may not be well suited for intense chemo, and for this group, the new combination could be a great option for treatment.

One-Two Punch

The approval of the ibrutinib-rituximab combination comes after promising results from the phase 3 trial in which the effectiveness of the combination was tested against the effectiveness of treatment with rituximab alone. When used in combination, ibrutinib and rituximab could offer substantially greater rates of progression free survival. At 30 months, progression free survival rate was 82 percent for the combination compared to just 28 percent with rituximab alone. Patients who received the combination saw an 80 percent reduction in overall risk of death or disease progression in the comparison.

Clearly this new treatment approach will be able to help many patients with WM who may already think that they are out of options.

To help support with WM patient community, learn more about our partner, the IWMF, here.

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