Tag Archive for: chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Developing CLL Research and Treatment News

Developing CLL Research and Treatment News from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

CLL expert Dr. Michael Choi provides his perspective on the goals of current CLL clinical trials, discusses approved inhibitor treatments, and shares credible resources to keep up with the latest news in research.

Dr. Michael Choi is a hematologist and medical oncologist at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Choi. 

See More from CLL Clinical Trials 201

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Hesitant to Participate in a CLL Clinical Trial_ What You Should Know

Hesitant to Participate in a CLL Clinical Trial? What You Should Know

Clinical Trials As a CLL Treatment Option: What You Should Know

How Does Patient Clinical Trial Participation Move CLL Research Forward

Transcript:

Laura Beth:

Dr. Choi, are there recent advances in CLL treatment and research that you are excited about?  

Dr. Choi:

There’s certainly a lot to be excited about as far as new treatments or new understanding of our treatments. What I see as kind of two main aims of trials right now for our patients with CLL, one is to figure out the optimal way to treat patients, especially in the first line of treatment.  

For the past few years, we’ve had two very clear options, two very clear standards, a BTK inhibitor or the combination of venetoclax and a CD20 antibody. And so, right now, there are a couple of trials both in the states and internationally that are for the first time really comparing those head-to-head. At UCSD, we’re eagerly hoping to join one of those trials as well, and so this will help us and help our patients kind of really know which of those options make the most sense for maybe different subgroups of patients.  

I guess the other main emphasis is to have new therapies available to patients in case these existing standards stop working. And fortunately, this is not a common occurrence. Resistance to BTK inhibitors and Bcl-2 inhibitors is not common, fortunately. But we have to be ready with something if that does occur for our patients.  

Certainly, there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the next generation of BTK inhibitors, cellular therapies like CAR-T therapy, and other classes of medications. So, while I hope most of my patients never need those drugs or never need those trials, I think it’s important that we have those available.  

Laura Beth:

How can patients keep up to date on developing CLL research?  

Dr. Choi:

Oh, that’s a great question. I guess I sometimes ask that same question of myself. How can I stay updated on all the developments and discoveries. Yeah, I guess, yeah, certainly talking to your doctors about what other options there may be. Sometimes, that’s maybe the simplest question to ask.

Yeah, I wish online things were a little bit more straightforward. When I go onto clinicaltrials.gov, I pull up hundreds of different CLL trials, some that might not be relevant for all of my patients. I think The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and other societies and your group as well have done a great job communicating what some of the most promising areas of research are.  

Hesitant to Participate in a CLL Clinical Trial? What You Should Know.

Hesitant to Participate in a CLL Clinical Trial? What You Should Know. from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What should patients know about clinical trials? CLL expert Dr. Michael Choi explains patient trial opportunities and provides key questions to ask about clinical trial participation.

Dr. Michael Choi is a hematologist and medical oncologist at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Choi. 

See More from CLL Clinical Trials 201

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Transcript:

Laura Beth:

Dr. Choi, what would you say to someone who is perhaps a little hesitant to participate in a trial to encourage them to learn more?  

Dr. Choi:

Yeah, certainly, it’s very natural to be anxious and to be hesitant about entering into a clinical trial about volunteering to receive something that maybe hasn’t been fully tested before. You know, I think when I talk to my patients about trials, one thing I try to keep in mind is that ultimately, to a degree, to a large degree, we have our trials for our patients. We want to have our trials open at our center so that patients that can benefit from them can have access to them.  

And so, a lot of trials are really kind of designed in that way, to give patients a chance at something that we think will be better or a chance to get a drug when other drugs have stopped working. So, I think many clinical trials aren’t really with the thought that we want to prioritize the science and that our patients are just guinea pigs.  

In fact, I think all of us that are treating patients with CLL and being a part of CLL clinical trials, I think we’re really doing our best to prioritize our patients and their health. The trials are really just a part of that. But beyond that, I think maybe the questions that can be asked would be kind of what’s known already about these drugs. 

 Many trials are using drugs that we’ve already used for many years and maybe just using them in a different manner. So, talk to your doctors about what’s already known. Certainly, the question about how will they be monitored, that’s an important question for your team too. And then, certainly, make sure you understand if there are any other options that would be appropriate or good for you and discuss the pros and cons of the trial versus those options. 

How Does Patient Clinical Trial Participation Move CLL Research Forward?

How Does Patient Clinical Trial Participation Move CLL Research Forward? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) expert Dr. Michael Choi shares how clinical trial participation helps advance research and benefit the CLL community.

Dr. Michael Choi is a hematologist and medical oncologist at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Choi. 

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Transcript:

Laura Beth:

Dr. Choi, why is patient participation in CLL clinical trials so critical to advancing research?  

Dr. Choi:

Yeah, there’s still so much that we can do better for our patients. We’ve come a long way. I think we have a few – many treatments that we can really count on to work when we need it, but I think we still have a way that we can refine this more, which combination to use, which sequence to use, how long to do the certain treatments, and then, of course, what to do if those treatments stop working.  

So, I think, yeah, trials help us answer these questions in kind of formal manners so that the information can be used to help other patients in the future.   

Laura Beth:

I imagine that trial participation benefits the CLL community as a whole, by helping to move the research forward?   

Dr. Choi:

That’s so right, yeah. I’m always humbled and impressed by, I guess, the selflessness and the bravery of some of our patients, or of all of our patients and their families and their loved ones. Volunteering for a trial is certainly no trivial thing, not a trivial thing. And so, yeah, I think that that realization that by being a part of a trial, they’re not only potentially helping themselves and getting good care but also helping the future patients as well.  

How Is a Patient’s Safety Monitored in a CLL Clinical Trial?

How Is a Patient’s Safety Monitored in a CLL Clinical Trial? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

CLL clinical trials have safety protocols, but how are they carried out? CLL expert Dr. Michael Choi explains the frequency of monitoring, what happens if adverse events occur, and the groups that oversee clinical trial safety.

Dr. Michael Choi is a hematologist and medical oncologist at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Choi. 

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Are CLL Clinical Trials Safe?

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Transcript:

Laura Beth:

Dr. Choi, a lot of patients worry about the safety of a clinical trial. They wonder, “Is it safe, or am I going to be a guinea pig?” What is done to help ensure safety for patients when they’re in a clinical trial? 

Dr. Choi:

Yeah, certainly every clinical trial brings with it or introduces some sense of uncertainty.  

After all, that’s why the trial is being done, because we are trying to learn about how effective or how safe or how tolerable a drug or drug combination is. But certainly, trials are designed in a way that prioritize or emphasize the safety and the monitoring of patients. Oftentimes, trials will have very clear guidance on how often a patient will be assessed, sometimes have very clear recommendations about what to do about each individual lab abnormality that may come up, and certainly very clear guidance on how to adjust the dose of the drugs that are being used if there’s any sort of toxicity.  

But yeah, certainly, I can empathize with the concern that something that’s very new, we may be learning at the same time as our patients as far as what side effects may come up.  

But I do want to emphasize that oftentimes, these aren’t total unknowns, that the research that goes into it, a drug or a pathway, even before the trial starts, gives people a good sense of what things to watch for and how safe things may be.  

Laura Beth:

Is there an oversight committee or a safety committee that reviews the safety information of a clinical trial?  

Dr. Choi:

That’s correct, yeah. Behind the scenes, there are, I imagine, kind of armies of people that are eagerly refreshing their screens to see results come in, both out of excitement to see how something is working, but also to make sure that we’re on top of any side effects or any toxicities that may affect other patients on the trial. Very rarely, maybe a patient on one part of the continent has some side effect, and that information is very quickly and formally disseminated to all the other sites.  

Sometimes, that leads to the other sites deciding to halt their enrollment to figure out what happened and prevent it from happening again, or at the very least, know to keep track of that in our other patients as well. So, yeah, definitely people monitoring things and really, with the priority of keeping other patients safe or keeping all patients safe.  

How Are CLL Patients Monitored After a Clinical Trial Concludes?

How Are CLL Patients Monitored After a Clinical Trial Concludes? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What happens after a clinical trial is complete? CLL expert Dr. Michael Choi explains how participants are monitored during clinical trial follow-up.

Dr. Michael Choi is a hematologist and medical oncologist at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. More information on Dr. Choi here. 

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CLL Clinical Trials: What Are the Phases?

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Transcript:

Laura Beth:

Is there follow-up that’s done after a trial concludes? 

Dr. Choi:

Oh, good question. Yeah.  

Yeah, trials are kind of – let me say what – yeah, when a patient goes through a trial, there can be a sense that the trial concludes, perhaps when the treatment is done or at a certain point when a response assessment is made, but oftentimes, it’s important to also continue to monitor patients after those milestones.

Certainly, for some of our drugs, the treatment continues long-term, so even after some statement has been made about a response rate, many patients remain on treatment, and it’s certainly important to see if there are any long-term side effects or any other developments after the end of that initial period.  

 Other treatments, the trial – the treatment may end. An example might be these trials that combine BTK inhibitors and Bcl-2 inhibitors that are typically for a year-and-a-half or so.   

And certainly, for those trials, it’s definitely critical for patients to be followed as part of the trial so that we can get a good sense of how long those remissions are lasting. Also, of course, to see if there are any delayed or long-term toxicities. So, yeah, so oftentimes, being a part of a trial means being followed, being monitored for some time afterwards.  

What Happens in Each Phase of a CLL Clinical Trial?

What Happens in Each Phase of a CLL Clinical Trial? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What are the phases of clinical trials? CLL expert Dr. Michael Choi outlines the research purpose of clinical trials and what happens in each phase.

Dr. Michael Choi is a hematologist and medical oncologist at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. More information on Dr. Choi here. 

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Transcript:

Laura Beth:

Dr. Choi, can you please walk us through the phases of a clinical trial and what happens during each phase?  

Dr. Choi:

That’s a great question. Yeah, historically, trials have been divided into different phases. The way I think of it is when a drug is first being tested, we don’t want to expose too many people to it, because we’re still learning about the right dose and about its safety. And then, as we learn more and more and maybe get some confirmation that it’s doing what it’s supposed to do, then we have bigger trials and eventually, bring in some comparisons to existing standards.  

So, a Phase I trial is usually, I would say, a few dozen patients, getting the drug for the very first time or sometimes for the first time for this diagnosis. Oftentimes, the very first Phase I trials might have a dose escalation component where the first dose or the first group of patients might get a dose that is based on an assurance that it will be – or some confidence that it will be safe and well-tolerated.  

Then, as the trial goes on, a higher dose will be used once we see that the previous doses are safe. Now, sometimes, this dose escalation happens in between different groups of patients, and sometimes, some trials will escalate the dose for even within an individual patient. But the basic idea of it is to start at doses that we think will be safe and then to gradually escalate it, again, prioritizing the safety of the patients.  

I shouldn’t also – although Phase I trials are designed to determine the safety of a drug, there are many Phase I trials that show clinical activity and benefit to the patients, so I don’t think people should be altogether discouraged from enrolling in a Phase I trial either. 

I can also say that some Phase I trials are just looking at a combination of drugs that we have experience with already, but designed or written as a Phase I trial, because we have to confirm the safety of those two drugs. In those trials, the doses might not be that different than what’s used already, and there’s often more expectation of immediate clinical benefit. Phase II trials are where we’re principally looking or usually looking mainly at the response rate or some sort of clinical endpoint, how many patients get into a partial remission, or how many patients get into a complete remission and so on.  

And I would say these are usually our trials that are 20, 30, 50 patients, to that effect. And basically, from that group of patients, we can get a pretty good estimate of how effective a drug or a drug combination may be. And then finally, the third type of trial, Phase III trial, is when a new drug or a new combination is compared directly to a different – to what would be considered the standard of care at the time.  

So, this is a way that we can get more confidence that this new drug is indeed better than what we’ve been doing up until now.  

How Could CLL Patients Benefit From Clinical Trial Participation?

How Could CLL Patients Benefit From Clinical Trial Participation? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

CLL clinical trials are an option for patients, but what is the benefit of participating in a trial? CLL expert Dr. Michael Choi shares the impact of recent research developments for patients.

Dr. Michael Choi is a hematologist and medical oncologist at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. More information on Dr. Choi here.

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Hesitant to Participate in a CLL Clinical Trial_ What You Should Know

Transcript:

Laura Beth:

Dr. Choi, in your opinion, why should a patient with CLL consider participating in a clinical trial?  

Dr. Choi:

This is definitely a time where there has been a lot of recent progress in the treatment of patients with CLL. The drugs that have been developed in the last few years have definitely been advances, have shown that they are both more effective and more safe than the drugs that we had before.  

So, oftentimes, participating in a clinical trial gives our patients access to some very promising therapies before they’re fully available. Certainly, there are some unknowns and still things to learn about these drugs, so one should be – there are safeguards built into these trials, but I’d say the main thing would be getting access to something that may be better than something that we’ve been using in the past. This applies to somebody getting treatment for the very first time where there may be reasons to think that a new drug or a new combination of therapies will have advantages over things that we’ve been using before.  

And certainly, it is relevant to patients where the existing therapies have somehow stopped working where certainly the trials or experimental agents give us or give our patients a chance to get back in remission.  

What Do CLL Patients Need to Know About Clinical Trials?

What Do CLL Patients Need to Know About Clinical Trials? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What is a clinical trial and how does patient participation work? This animated video provides an overview of clinical trials, the process, and details key steps for engaging in your care.

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Transcript:

 Dr. Singh:  

Hi, I’m Dr. Singh, and this is my patient, Elena, who is living with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, also called “CLL.”

And Elena is participating in a CLL clinical trial.  

Let me start by explaining what a clinical trial IS. Basically, it is a research study with human participants. And the goal of cancer clinical trials is to discover new and improved treatments to treat or to prevent cancer. 

At first, when I asked Elena if she would consider participating, she had a few hesitations.  

Elena:

Yes—even though I trust Dr. Singh, I still had questions. 

So, the first thing I asked was, what steps are taken to protect my safety if I participate in a trial? 

Dr. Singh: 

This is a common concern for many patients, and so I explained to Elena that each trial has a strict safety protocol, with set guidelines to protect patients. Beyond that, researchers are required to follow patient safety rules, which are enforced by the U.S Food & Drug Administration (FDA). At each study location, an institutional review board (or IRB) regularly reviews a study, and many trials are overseen by a group called a data and safety monitoring committee. 

And the trial team, which can include nurses and researchers, closely monitors the health of each trial participant regularly, all throughout the process. This is why clinical trials often require more visits and testing, and, in turn, a bigger commitment from that patient.  

Elena: 

After I felt more comfortable about the safety aspects, I asked Dr. Singh which clinical trial he would recommend for my CLL. 

Dr. Singh: 

That’s right. We discussed Elena’s available trial options, reviewed the pros and cons of each approach, as well as the logistics and potential financial impact. 

And it’s important to note that not every patient will qualify for every trial. Clinical trials have “eligibility requirements,” which can vary widely but may include factors like a patient’s age, health, and any prior treatments they have had.  

Elena: 

And there are several phases of clinical trials, right, Dr. Singh? 

Dr. Singh: 

Yes, exactly. The main phases are Phase I, II, III and IV. Each phase gathers valuable information about the treatment and helps measure its effectiveness.  

Elena: 

So, the main reason I joined a trial was to find out if a newer treatment could be more effective than the standard of care to treat my CLL. AND I wanted to help move cancer research forward for the CLL community. 

Dr. Singh: 

Exactly. Not every patient has the same reason for participation, but trials are essential for developing new and improved treatments for the future. 

Elena:  

I also learned that patients can leave a trial at any time or stage if they wish. 

Dr. Singh: 

That’s a great point, Elena.  

Now that you understand more about trials, how can you find out more? 

  • Start by asking your doctor if there are any trials that are available to you—and, if there is a specific trial that they recommend for you. 
  • If there is a trial that your team recommends, ask to discuss: 
  • The treatment approach used in the study and the purpose of the trial. 
  • The risks and benefits of participation. 
  • The financial costs, if any, and if there are assistance programs to help if you need it. 
  • The location of the trial and whether it can be coordinated with your local institution if it isn’t conveniently located—or, if transportation is available. 
  • How often you will need to go to the trial site and how long the trial will last. 
  • Finally, continue to educate yourself, using resources like clinicaltrials.gov. 

Elena: 

And visit powerfulpatients.org/CLL to learn more about clinical trials and CLL research. 

Dr. Singh: 

Thanks for joining us! 

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How Does CLL Affect the Immune System?

How Does CLL Affect the Immune System? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) expert Dr. Seema Bhat explains how a patient’s immunity is affected by the disease and strategies for management.  

Seema Bhat, MD is a hematologist at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – The James. Learn more about Dr. Bhat.

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Transcript:

Katherine:

Finally, our last question. One audience member would like to know more about how CLL affects the immune system, including wound healing, and how does CLL impact this? 

Dr. Bhat:

So, patients with CLL usually have a weaker immune system. The lymphocyte, which is the white cell, which is affected in CLL, is an important part for an immune system, and due to the presence of disease, these lymphocytes – although there are lots of them in patients with CLL, they tend to be non-functional. 

“Functionally incompetent,” that’s what they’re called. And it leaves the patient’s immune deficient and susceptible to a variety of infections. Also, the lymphocyte is component – the B lymphocyte is one component of immune system. There are other components like T lymphocyte, antibody, NK cells. There’s cross-dock between the B cells and what we call, the “microenvironment,” which is made of the T cells. This cross-dock is deficient in patients with CLL, again making them immune-deficient and susceptible to infection. So, that’s one impact on their immune system. 

Sometimes, there’s something else happening in the immune system where the immune system can go crazy, or wacky, and start attacking the patient’s own blood cells leading to, for example, decrease of hemoglobin or platelets, because these are immune complications. And also, due to a weak immune system, patients with CLL can have delayed wound healing, which also predisposes them to infection. 

So, being aware of these complications is important and using appropriate precautions can be very helpful. Again, because they have a weakened immune system, vaccines are very important. Using all measures to avoid infection, hand washing, staying away from patients, from people who are obviously sick, is very important. Sometimes, patients where we see they’re’ getting frequent infections, we can use what’s called, “IVIG,” intravenous immunoglobulin. These are pre-farmed antibodies which are injected into or infused into the patient at regular intervals every 4 to six weeks, which reduce the chance of these infections. 

How Do Genetic Mutations Impact a CLL Patient’s Prognosis?

How Do Genetic Mutations Impact a CLL Patient’s Prognosis? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What is the best approach for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients with genetic mutations? CLL expert Dr. Seema Bhat shares how mutations impact prognosis and treatment.

Seema Bhat, MD is a hematologist at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – The James. Learn more about Dr. Bhat.

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Transcript:

Katherine:

Okay, that’s great. Here’s one from Phil, “How do mutations affect longevity when surviving CLL? What new treatments help with P53 mutation?”  

Dr. Bhat:

So, there are certain prognostic markers for CLL, meaning certain tests that can tell us how a particular patient is expected to do. Some of these tests detect presence or absence of mutations in certain genes. For example, the IGHV gene can be mutated or unmutated. 

In patients with mutated IGHV, they do well, and patients with unmutated IGHV tend to have a more aggressive disease and may require treatment sooner. Similarly, TP53 mutations also tend to require treatment sooner, and more of these mutations do not respond well to conventional chemotherapy. However, targeted therapy has changed the outlook for these mutations, and it works very well for both these mutations. 

Are There CLL Clinical Trials Studying Richter’s Transformation?

Are There CLL Clinical Trials Studying Richter’s Transformation? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Have there been any advances in treating Richter’s transformation in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients? Dr. Seema Bhat discusses emerging approaches. 

Dr. Seema Bhat is a hematologist at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – The James. Learn more about Dr. Bhat here.

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What Does Minimal Residual Disease (MRD) Mean for CLL Patients

What Does Minimal Residual Disease (MRD) Mean for CLL Patients?

Transcript:

Katherine:

Sophia wants to know, “Are there any clinical trials regarding Richter’s, or DLBCL, transformation?” 

Dr. Bhat:

So, Richter’s transformation means when CLL, which is a low-grade disease, changes into high-grade lymphoma, and most commonly it’s “diffuse large B-cell lymphoma,” or DLBCL. Currently available treatments for Richter’s transformation are, unfortunately, sub-optimal. So, clinical trials to find better treatments are critical for this division, and there are a number of these currently going on. For example, some trials add targeted agents to the backbone of standard chemotherapy called, “R-CHOP.” 

So, we have one trial where acalabrutinib is being added. There’s another clinical trial where venetoclax is being combined with R-CHOP. One of the problems with Richter’s transformation is that it tends to be refractory to treatment, and it tends to come back or relapse. So, there are studies ongoing for relapse treatment as well, with combination of targeted agents. And CAR-T therapy, we just talked about that, is also being studied in Richter’s transformation. So, there’s a lot going on to improve the outcome for this. 

What Does Minimal Residual Disease (MRD) Mean for CLL Patients?

What Does Minimal Residual Disease (MRD) Mean for CLL Patients? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What do chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients need to know about minimal residual disease (MRD)? Dr. Seema Bhat explains what it is, how it’s checked, and what it means for patients.

Dr. Seema Bhat is a hematologist at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – The James. Learn more about Dr. Bhat here.

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Transcript:

Katherine:  

Here’s another question from Anna. She asks, “What is MRD, and does that mean that the disease is cured?” 

Dr. Bhat:

So, MRD is minimal residual disease, and in CLL is defined as the number of leukemic cells that can be detected in the blood or bone marrow following treatment, meaning how many cancer cells are remaining after treatment? This can be checked by a couple of tests. Most commonly, we use flow cytometry. Undetectable MRD is currently defined as the presence of less than one cell – one CLL cell in 10,000 white cells. 

It’s emerging as an endpoint in a number of clinical trials, and presence of no MRD, also called, “MRD-negative status,” although not considered a cure, predicts better outcomes with longer remission. This is being done in combination treatment, and although it’s part of clinical trials currently, with more data available, we may start using this in clinical practice in the next coming years. 

Managing CLL Symptoms and Treatment Side Effects

Managing CLL Symptoms and Treatment Side Effects from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) expert Dr. Seema Bhat reviews common CLL symptoms and treatment side effects and approaches for managing them. Dr. Bhat stresses the importance of sharing any issues they may be having with their healthcare teams.

Seema Bhat, MD is a hematologist at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – The James. Learn more about Dr. Bhat.

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Transcript:

Katherine:

Can you please talk about common side effects of CLL – which, of course, we’ve covered already, but both the ones from the disease itself and then ones related to treatment, and what can be done about these? 

Dr. Bhat:

So, disease-related side effects, or we call them disease-related symptoms, include fatigue as a common symptom. Unintentional weight loss can happen. Fevers, chills, or drenching night sweats can happen. We call them, “B symptoms.” Spleen can enlarge, and the enlargement can cause belly pain or feeling of fullness quickly after a meal since spleen is close to our stomach, and as it enlarges, it limits the space stomach can take up in the belly. Lymph nodes can enlarge and can get uncomfortable. So, if any of these symptoms happen, then we have to treat the CLL, and once we start treating the CLL these symptoms should go away. 

As far as treatment-related side effects are concerned, for example, BTK inhibitors are associated with a certain set of side effects. For example, patients can have muscle cramping, muscle pain, joint pain. Patients can have diarrhea. Some of the side effects that we worry about is change in heart rhythm, for example, atrial fibrillation. We talked about that, or increased risk of bleeding.  

Those are some of the side effects we worry about, and if those were to develop, then, of course – for example, a patient has atrial fibrillation, and if it’s symptomatic, we hold the medication. We take care of the atrial fibrillation, usually in collaboration with cardiologists, and once that’s under control, then we have to decide what to do with the treatment. If the atrial fibrillation is under control, we can re-initiate the treatment, or we can go to one of the next-generation BTK inhibitors – the acalabrutinib (Calquence), the pirtobrutinib (LOXO-305), which have less of those side effects. 

Bleeding tends to be a concern, but anything that reduces the risk of bleeding like other medications, aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), other blood thinners, we can avoid them, monitor these patients very closely for any of these side effects, so that’s critical. With venetoclax, it’s usually very well-controlled. It’s the initial part of treatment that tends to be a little bit intensive because of the specific side effect called, “tumor lysis syndrome,” which means that the drug works very quickly, and cells die off quickly, they can release stuff in the blood, and things can collect in the blood. 

Uric acid can go up, electrolytes can be up, any number can go up. So, we are aware of this side effect, and we actually pre-emptively have things in place that can prevent this from happening, or if it happens, we manage it right away. For example, venetoclax has a specific dose initiation. For example, it’s called, “dose ramp-up.” We start it at a lower dose, 20 milligrams, for one week. Escalate it to 50 the next week, 100 the third week, 200 fourth week, and 400 the last week, which is the standard dose. They continue on 400 from there onward. 

And even with the slow dose escalation, in the early couple of weeks, we monitor them very closely. Once we initiate a dose, we bring them back to the clinic to recheck their blood work to see if there are any changes. If any changes have happened, we hydrate them, initiate medication for their tumor lysis syndrome. 

If the risk of tumor lysis is very high, then we monitor then admit them to the hospital. Otherwise, long-term side effects of venetoclax, what we have noticed mostly is gastritis, most side effects – mostly diarrhea. But that’s usually well-controlled. We can manage it well with supportive care.