A randomized phase 3 trial of zanubrutinib vs ibrutinib in symptomatic Waldenström macroglobulinemia: the ASPEN study

Blood. 2020 Oct 29;136(18):2038-2050. doi: 10.1182/blood.2020006844.


Bruton tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibition is an effective treatment approach for patients with Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM). The phase 3 ASPEN study compared the efficacy and safety of ibrutinib, a first-generation BTK inhibitor, with zanubrutinib, a novel highly selective BTK inhibitor, in patients with WM. Patients with MYD88L265P disease were randomly assigned 1:1 to treatment with ibrutinib or zanubrutinib. The primary end point was the proportion of patients achieving a complete response (CR) or a very good partial response (VGPR) by independent review. Key secondary end points included major response rate (MRR), progression-free survival (PFS), duration of response (DOR), disease burden, and safety. A total of 201 patients were randomized, and 199 received ≥1 dose of study treatment. No patient achieved a CR. Twenty-nine (28%) zanubrutinib patients and 19 (19%) ibrutinib patients achieved a VGPR, a nonstatistically significant difference (P = .09). MRRs were 77% and 78%, respectively. Median DOR and PFS were not reached; 84% and 85% of ibrutinib and zanubrutinib patients were progression free at 18 months. Atrial fibrillation, contusion, diarrhea, peripheral edema, hemorrhage, muscle spasms, and pneumonia, as well as adverse events leading to treatment discontinuation, were less common among zanubrutinib recipients. Incidence of neutropenia was higher with zanubrutinib, although grade ≥3 infection rates were similar in both arms (1.2 and 1.1 events per 100 person-months). These results demonstrate that zanubrutinib and ibrutinib are highly effective in the treatment of WM, but zanubrutinib treatment was associated with a trend toward better response quality and less toxicity, particularly cardiovascular toxicity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenine / administration & dosage
  • Adenine / analogs & derivatives
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Piperidines / administration & dosage
  • Prognosis
  • Pyrazoles / administration & dosage
  • Pyrimidines / administration & dosage
  • Survival Rate
  • Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia / drug therapy*
  • Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia / pathology


  • Piperidines
  • Pyrazoles
  • Pyrimidines
  • ibrutinib
  • zanubrutinib
  • Adenine