Lymphoma Research Foundation Hosts Groundbreaking Workshop on CLL Treatment
The Lymphoma Research Foundation brought together leading experts and industry insiders in the field of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) last month for a discussion forum on disease treatment. The meeting, held outside of Washington DC, was the first of its kind hosted by LRF and was chaired by LRF Scientific Advisory Board Chair Bruce D. Cheson, MD, FACP, FAAAS (Georgetown University Hospital).
CLL is considered a B-cell malignancy, generally thought of as a non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The cancer cells are located in the bloodstream and the bone marrow (the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are made), although the lymph nodes and spleen are often involved as well. Thinking of CLL as a lymphoma and not a form of leukemia is important because CLL has a clinical course and treatment regimen that is similar to other indolent lymphomas. CLL tends to be a slow-growing cancer. However, over time, it can progress to a more aggressive type of lymphoma. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 15,000 new cases of CLL are diagnosed annually. This form of cancer is usually diagnosed in older adults over the age of 50—more than half of the people with CLL are over age 70.
New classes of drugs for CLL that inhibit different molecular pathways have been shown to have immense clinical benefits. However, these drugs often cause a transient increase in peripheral blood lymphocyte count. This type of reaction to the drug could jeopardize FDA approval, potentially denying patients beneficial new treatments.
Dr. Cheson focused the meeting to a single question: What is a clinically meaningful response? World-renowned CLL researchers as well as pharmaceutical company representatives, the Acting Deputy Director in the Division of Hematology Products in the Office of New Drugs of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and scientists from the National Institutes of Health convened to discuss advancing the pathway for bringing new drugs to people who need them. They also discussed reshaping the guidelines for what qualification a drug is needed to be brought to the FDA.
“This meeting brought together physicians from the clinic, the pharmaceutical industry, the NCI and the FDA to try to develop new strategies to evaluate novel agents for patients with CLL,” Dr. Cheson said. “I was impressed by the level of agreement amongst those present and hope it will translate into more rapid approval of effective therapies for patients.”