Phase 3 Trial of Ibrutinib plus Rituximab in Waldenström's Macroglobulinemia

N Engl J Med. 2018 Jun 21;378(25):2399-2410. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1802917. Epub 2018 Jun 1.


Background: Single-agent ibrutinib has shown substantial activity in patients with relapsed Waldenström's macroglobulinemia, a rare form of B-cell lymphoma. We evaluated the effect of adding ibrutinib to rituximab in patients with this disease, both in those who had not received previous treatment and in those with disease recurrence.

Methods: We randomly assigned 150 symptomatic patients to receive ibrutinib plus rituximab or placebo plus rituximab. The primary end point was progression-free survival, as assessed by an independent review committee. Key secondary end points were response rates, sustained hematologic improvement from baseline, and safety. The mutational status of MYD88 and CXCR4 was assessed in bone marrow samples.

Results: At 30 months, the progression-free survival rate was 82% with ibrutinib-rituximab versus 28% with placebo-rituximab (hazard ratio for progression or death, 0.20; P<0.001). The benefit in the ibrutinib-rituximab group over that in the placebo-rituximab group was independent of the MYD88 or CXCR4 genotype. The rate of major response was higher with ibrutinib-rituximab than with placebo-rituximab (72% vs. 32%, P<0.001). More patients had sustained increases in hemoglobin level with ibrutinib-rituximab than with placebo-rituximab (73% vs. 41%, P<0.001). The most common adverse events of any grade with ibrutinib-rituximab included infusion-related reactions, diarrhea, arthralgia, and nausea. Events of grade 3 or higher that occurred more frequently with ibrutinib-rituximab than with placebo-rituximab included atrial fibrillation (12% vs. 1%) and hypertension (13% vs. 4%); those that occurred less frequently included infusion reactions (1% vs. 16%) and any grade of IgM flare (8% vs. 47%). The major hemorrhage rate was the same in the two trial groups (4%).

Conclusions: Among patients with Waldenström's macroglobulinemia, the use of ibrutinib-rituximab resulted in significantly higher rates of progression-free survival than the use of placebo-rituximab, both among those who had received no previous treatment and among those with disease recurrence. Atrial fibrillation and hypertension were more common with ibrutinib-rituximab, whereas infusion reactions and IgM flare were more common with placebo-rituximab. (Funded by Pharmacyclics and Janssen Research and Development; number, NCT02165397 .).

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase III
  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenine / analogs & derivatives
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / chemically induced
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin M / blood
  • Infusions, Intravenous / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Piperidines
  • Pyrazoles / administration & dosage*
  • Pyrazoles / adverse effects
  • Pyrimidines / administration & dosage*
  • Pyrimidines / adverse effects
  • Rituximab / administration & dosage*
  • Rituximab / adverse effects
  • Survival Analysis
  • Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia / blood
  • Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia / drug therapy*


  • Hemoglobins
  • Immunoglobulin M
  • Piperidines
  • Pyrazoles
  • Pyrimidines
  • ibrutinib
  • Rituximab
  • Adenine

Associated data