Pretreatment with ibrutinib reduces cytokine secretion and limits the risk of obinutuzumab-induced infusion-related reactions in patients with CLL: analysis from the iLLUMINATE study

Ann Hematol. 2021 Jul;100(7):1733-1742. doi: 10.1007/s00277-021-04536-6. Epub 2021 May 20.


Anti-CD20 antibody treatments, such as obinutuzumab, have been associated with infusion-related reactions (IRRs). In the phase 3 iLLUMINATE study of ibrutinib-obinutuzumab versus chlorambucil-obinutuzumab in first-line chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma, IRRs were substantially reduced with ibrutinib-obinutuzumab versus chlorambucil-obinutuzumab. We prospectively analyzed inflammatory cytokines to evaluate the impact of ibrutinib on circulating cytokine levels following obinutuzumab infusion. In iLLUMINATE, ibrutinib or chlorambucil was given approximately 30-120 min before the first obinutuzumab infusion. Cytokines evaluated were IFNγ, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-18, MCP-1, MIP-1α, MIP-1β, and TNFα. Changes in peak cytokine levels from baseline (immediately before obinutuzumab) to post-obinutuzumab infusion were compared between arms and between patients with versus without IRRs using Wilcoxon rank sum test. Of 228 treated patients, 95 on ibrutinib-obinutuzumab (15 with IRRs, 80 without) and 88 on chlorambucil-obinutuzumab (45 with IRRs, 43 without) with cytokine data were included. Irrespective of IRR occurrence, median increase in cytokines was lower with ibrutinib-obinutuzumab versus chlorambucil-obinutuzumab for all cytokines (P < 0.01) except MIP-1β. Across treatment arms, post-obinutuzumab median increase in all cytokines except MIP-1β was greater in patients with versus without IRRs (P < 0.001). IL-6 and IL-8 elevations were associated with IRRs in both treatment arms. Among patients with IRRs, those receiving ibrutinib-obinutuzumab had lower post-obinutuzumab increases in IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, and MCP-1 (P < 0.04) than patients receiving chlorambucil-obinutuzumab. For patients in the ibrutinib-treatment arm, we observed a reduction in both the rate of clinically apparent IRRs and the levels of IRR-related cytokines and chemokines. This observation supports an immunomodulatory mechanism of action for ibrutinib. Clinical Trial Registration: NCT02264574.

Keywords: Cytokines; Ibrutinib; Infusion-related reactions; Obinutuzumab.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase III
  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adenine / administration & dosage
  • Adenine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / administration & dosage
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / adverse effects*
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Chlorambucil / administration & dosage
  • Cytokines / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / blood
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Piperidines / administration & dosage*
  • Premedication*
  • Prospective Studies


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Cytokines
  • Piperidines
  • Chlorambucil
  • ibrutinib
  • Adenine
  • obinutuzumab

Associated data