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Recent FDA Approval a ‘Great Step in the Right Direction’ for Improving Quality of Life in Blood Cancer Patients

The FDA has approved a liquid form of ibrutinib for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma (CLL/SLL), Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia, and chronic graft-versus-host-disease that has returned after at least one line of therapy. 

Rye Brook, N.Y., March 11, 2024 – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recent approval of a new formulation of ibrutinib (Imbruvica®) will make it easier for some blood cancer patients to receive the benefits of this medication.  

“Blood cancer patients need to be able to take their medicine to get the most out of their treatment,” says Lee Greenberger, Ph.D., The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Chief Scientific Officer. “Most people don’t even think about this, but there are patients who cannot swallow a pill.” 

Prior to this approval, ibrutinib was available to patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma (CLL/SLL), Waldenström macroglobulinemia, and chronic graft-versus-host-disease that has returned after at least one line of therapy only as a once-daily regimen of a capsule or tablet. Now, patients can receive a liquid form of ibrutinib placed into their mouth. 

“This is extremely beneficial for several patient populations, including older patients and young adolescents who sometimes are unable to swallow medicine in pill form,” says Dr. Greenberger. “Blood cancer treatments can improve outcomes, but we first need to make sure that patients are able to adhere to their therapy, and this is a great step in the right direction.” 

Improving blood cancer patients’ quality of life is a priority at LLS 

Patients are more than a statistic and their quality of life needs to be considered when it comes to blood cancer treatment.  

Although a shift from a pill to a liquid may seem small to some, it is a major change for others. This is another recent example of giving more blood cancer patients new treatment options while allowing them to maintain a quality of life that is best for them.      

Among current efforts spearheaded and supported by LLS to improve quality of life while retaining optimal efficacy is a new substudy in our Beat AML® Master Clinical Trial. This substudy is testing whether less frequent dosing with venetoclax and azacitidine, the standard of care for some acute myeloid leukemia, will give patients the same benefits with fewer side effects. The study is specifically looking at remission rates in patients 60 and older, for whom the standard treatment cycle can be too toxic to complete. 

LLS is also supporting a clinical trial at Montefiore Medical Center in New York to evaluate if a once-weekly dose of venetoclax along with a once-weekly dose of decitabine (which has a similar action to azacitidine) in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndromes is safe and effective.   

“We have made tremendous progress in improving survival in many blood cancers and we continue to fight for better outcomes, but we need also need to consider quality of life,” says Dr. Greenberger. “If patients cannot tolerate therapy, or in the case of this recent approval, are unable to swallow a pill, then what good is the treatment?” 

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Media Contact:

Ryan McDonald

Senior Manager, Medical & Science Communications