There is much to report from 2014 American Society of Hematology annual meeting, and this sweet interview from Medscape offers a short synopsis of some of the highlights of the CLL data. There are some priceless moments, thanks to the wise and dry humor of Dr. Cheson and the honest and patient-centric attitude of Dr. O’Brien.
Up front, I really appreciated that Dr. Cheson pointed out just how out of date are even the most recent CLL guidelines that were developed only a few years ago. I am hoping that the hematologists and oncologists who don’t treat many patients with CLL are hearing Dr. Cheson’s message. The published CLL guidelines are out of date.
I am glad he also asked about the secondary malignancies with chemo-immunotherapy, a question too often swept under the carpet in many presentations on CLL treatment. We know there is a small but real risk of MDS or myelodysplastic syndrome (for an explanation of the relationship of MDS and CLL from Dr. Steensma, click here), a difficult to treat form of cancer that presents as bone marrow failure, that may come along as a late and serious complication with FCR (fludarabine, cyclophosphamide, and rituximab), but we don’t have much data yet on the risk with BR (bendamustine and rituximab). Because bendamustine is a DNA damaging alkylating agent similar to chlorambucil (Leukeran) and cyclophosphamide (the C in FCR), it is likely that MDS will also present as a late, but hopefully infrequent ugly complication after BR.
What we do know already is that now that we are living longer with our CLL, we are getting more secondary cancers (click here for a reminder of our risks), especially blood cancers.
Don’t miss Dr. Cheson’s hand gesture when Dr. O’Brien talks about the minority of patients that do so very well on FCR, a topic that we have visited here more than once (click here to hear Dr. Hallek at iwCLL discuss who gets the most benefit from FCR).
Another highlight comes right after the honest discussion of the follow up important trial of the two old school chemo-immunotherapies that are duking it out for supremacy in the CLL world, namely the FCR versus BR (for more on this trial from Dr. Sharman click here). After Dr. O’Brien’s honest and upbeat response, Dr. Cheson asks her, quite properly in this era of new treatment options: Do we care?
Yet another interesting moment occurs when he asks Dr. O’Brien to choose between ibrutinib, idelalisib, and ABT-199: If they were all available: Which one would you pick?
She refuses to answer.
Their discussion on the meaning of minimal residual disease or MRD negativity in the era of novel therapies is both informative about what we know but even more so about what we don’t know. Only time and trials will help sort all this out.
Dr. O’Brien had her own hand gesture when she describes just how much above 50% was the progression free survival curve for ABT-199 at 18 months. We need more data. And more time to sort this all out.
I wish I had produced this video. This is good stuff and there was much in it that cried out for commentary and context. I wanted everyone who reads my blog to have the link with it here.
Please enjoy this Medscape Interview: (You will need to register and log-in to view and/or download the transcript).
Dr. Brian Koffman 12/17/14