Ibrutinib was a shining star in the pharmaceutical headlines on June 20, 2013, with the news that this experimental drug used to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia may be the next breakthrough cancer treatment. As a medication Ibrutinib is different from the usual chemotherapy treatments in that it pointedly targets specific processes, and prevents tumor proliferation. After binding to B-cells Ibrutinib works efficaciously by not only stopping tumor growth and division, but also by not affecting the patients’ T-cell count. With virtually all chemotherapy drugs to blame for wreaking havoc on the T-cells in the body, Ibrutinib surprises by abstaining from affecting the T-cell counts of patients, leading to a significant reduction in adverse side effects of treatment. With many patients suffering from aggressive forms of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, known to be the result of genetic mutations, options for successful treatment with a medication like Ibrutinib are literally lifesaving.
Data regarding Ibrutinib was disseminated at the 17th Congress of the European Hematology Association show on June 19, 2013. The unique ability of Ibrutinib to be an oral treatment and to selectively inhibit Burton’s tyrosine kinase caused great excitement amongst show participants. The idea of offering patients an easy to administer oral pill with relatively little negative side effects is an exciting prospect for researchers and physicians. Diarrhea was the one adverse effect documented in study participants who were dosed with Ibrutinib, but this adverse reaction was deemed to be manageable and was not immunosuppressive. One particular study of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL, who were dosed with Ibrutinib revealed uplifting results. There were 81% of patients in the aforementioned study, who were dose with 420 mgs of Ibrutinib, deemed a low dose group, and 40% of patients who were dosed with 840 mgs of Ibrutinib. The group of patients who received the 840 mg treatment was tagged as the high dose group. The response rate was phenomenal in both groups, accounting for 74% of the participants. Additionally, 87% of all of these participants showed a 50% reduction in lymph nodes; along with a substantial amount of patients now in remission from this disease.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a difficult disease to treat, and the patients in the Ibrutinib study were no exception. 40% of the patients involved had refractory or relapsed CLL, having received at least three prior chemotherapy treatments with other drugs, without success. Almost one quarter of the patients dosed with Ibrutinib (23%) were over the age of 70, presenting age-related challenges. However, Ibrutinib prevailed, offering solid results to just about all patients involved. There are currently 77% of participants still taking Ibrutinib, and the response rate for this group at a median follow up is a whopping 93%. In addition, 13% of this group has achieved a complete response, and 3% have been declared in remission with a total response achieved. These statistics are a beacon of hope for the patients with CLL, as well as their physicians and families.
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