Study: Ibrutinib Effective Treatment for Difficult to Treat Forms of Hairy Cell Leukemia

The research team noted that although HCL has a good prognosis for the majority of patients, a small population will develop variants of the disease do not respond well to existing FDA-approved therapies or cannot tolerate the adverse effects of established therapies.

A new study conducted by researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC) found that the oral targeted therapy ibrutinib is a successful treatment option for high-risk hairy cell leukemia (HCL).

The research team noted that although HCL has a good prognosis for the majority of patients, a small population will develop variants of the disease do not respond well to existing FDA-approved therapies or cannot tolerate the adverse effects of established therapies.

“There is a critical unmet need for therapy options in this subset of patients to achieve long-term cancer control,” said principal investigator of the clinical trial Kerry Rogers, MD, hematologist/scientist at the OSUCCC-James Cancer Treatment and Research Center, in a press release. “Our study shows that ibrutinib is a safe, effective and well-tolerated option for patients with relapsed or variant forms of hairy cell leukemia. It is a very important discovery for patients facing this diagnosis.”

The phase 2 clinical trial recruited 44 patients with high-risk HCL to test the efficiency of ibrutinib, 15 of whom were treated at OSUCCC-James. Every study participant had either classic HCL and had received other treatments previously or had the variant form of the disease in which it is not likely that the standard therapies, cladribine and pentostatin, would be effective, according to the study.

Ibrutinib is an oral Bruton’s tyrosine kinase inhibitor that helps to block specific chemical reactions in the body that are involved in cellular processes. Use of the drug for the study was considered experimental, but ibrutinib is already FDA-approved for the treatment of certain cancers, such as mantle cell lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma.

“The underlying cellular biology of these diseases is similar, so we wanted to determine if this FDA-approved drug that is used to treat other forms of blood cancer could also serve as an effective treatment for this small segment of hairy cell leukemia patients who did not respond to traditional therapies,” Rogers said in the press release.

Rogers added that even though HCL is a disease with a generally good prognosis, there is a small group of patients for whom current therapies are inadequate for cancer control.

“This is an effective, well-tolerated new treatment option for patients impacted by the highest-risk forms of hairy cell leukemia,” Rogers said in the press release. “It’s a very exciting development that could transform survivorship for this subset of patients from months and years, to years and decades.”

REFERENCE

Study: Ibrutinib effective treatment for difficult to treat forms of hairy cell leukemia. The Ohio State University. July 21, 2021. Accessed July 22, 2021. https://cancer.osu.edu/news/study-ibrutinib-effective-treatment-for-difficult-to-treat-forms-of-hairy-cell-leukemia