Combination Treatment for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia to Soon be Covered on the NHS in Scotland

According to a story from Cancer Research UK, a combination treatment featuring the targeted cancer therapy venetoclax (marketed as Venclyxto) and the monoclonal antibody rituximab will soon be covered by the NHS in Scotland for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), a rare type of blood cancer. The move followed a recommendation for coverage from the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC).

About Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a form of blood cancer which affects lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell. The disease may not cause noticeable symptoms in its early stages. This cancer is linked to certain genetic mutations; notable risk factor for this blood cancer include old age, being male, exposure to certain insecticides, exposure to Agent Orange, and family history. Symptoms of chronic lymphocytic leukemia include fever, anemia, swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, and fatigue. It is also possible for this disease to transform into a more aggressive and faster progressing type of blood cancer like Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Treatment for this disease focuses mostly on controlling symptoms, and there is no cure. These treatments may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgery, bone marrow transplant, or biological therapy. As a slow growing cancer, the five year survival rate is 83 percent. To learn more about chronic lymphocytic leukemia, click here.

Improved Results

The recommendation was based on the impressive results from a phase 3 clinical trial which tested the venetoclax and rituximab combination side by side against one of the most common treatment methods, which consists of the chemotherapy drug bendamustine in combination with rituximab. The trial revealed that the combination that included venetoclax was more effective in delaying disease progression in comparison to the common standard treatment. The trial ran for a period of two years and included 389 patients.

Venetoclax, as a targeted therapy, is also intended to have less severe systemic side effects compared to chemotherapy because it inhibits the activity of a certain protein that is found in blood cells affected by the disease, ultimately killing them. This treatment combination had also previously gained coverage on the NHS in Wales and England.

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