Background: Both continuous therapy with acalabrutinib and fixed-duration therapy with venetoclax-obinutuzumab are effective for previously untreated chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. We hypothesised that frontline time-limited, minimal residual disease (MRD)-guided triplet therapy with acalabrutinib, venetoclax, and obinutuzumab would induce deep (ie, more patients with undetectable MRD) and durable remissions.
Methods: In this open-label, single-arm, investigator-sponsored, phase 2 study, patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia or small lymphocytic lymphoma were recruited from two academic hospitals in Boston, MA, USA. Eligible patients were aged 18 years or older, with an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status of 0-2, and were treatment naive. Patients were treated in 28 day cycles. Acalabrutinib monotherapy was given orally at 100 mg twice daily for cycle 1, then combined for six cycles with intravenous obinutuzumab (100 mg on cycle 2 day 1, 900 mg on day 2, 1000 mg on day 8, and 1000 mg on day 15 and on day 1 of cycles 3-7); and from the beginning of cycle 4, oral venetoclax was dosed daily using an accelerated ramp-up from 20 mg on day 1 to 400 mg by day 22 and continued at this dose thereafter. Patients continued on acalabrutinib 100 mg twice daily and venetoclax 400 mg once daily until day 1 of cycle 16 or day 1 of cycle 25. If the patient had undetectable MRD in the bone marrow they were given the option to discontinue therapy at the start of cycle 16 (if also in complete remission) or at the start of cycle 25 (if at least in partial remission). The primary endpoint was complete remission with undetectable MRD in the bone marrow (defined as <1 chronic lymphocytic leukaemia cell per 10 000 leucocytes as measured by four-colour flow cytometry), at cycle 16 day 1. Safety and activity endpoints were assessed in all patients who received at least one dose of any study drug. This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT03580928, and is ongoing.
Findings: Between Aug 2, 2018, and May 23, 2019, 37 patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia were enrolled and all received at least one dose of any study drug. The median age of patients was 63 years (IQR 57-70), and ten (27%) were female and 27 (73%) were male. Median follow-up was 27·6 months (IQR 25·1-28·2). At cycle 16 day 1, 14 (38% [95% CI 22-55]) of 37 participants had a complete remission with undetectable MRD in the bone marrow. The most common grade 3 or 4 haematological adverse event was neutropenia (16 [43%] of 37 patients). The most common grade 3-4 non-haematological adverse events were hyperglycaemia (three [8%]) and hypophosphataemia (three [8%]). Serious adverse events occurred in nine (24%) patients; the most common was neutropenia in three (8%) patients. There have been no deaths on study.
Interpretation: Acalabrutinib, venetoclax, and obinutuzumab is a highly active and well tolerated frontline therapy for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. Although the primary endpoint of this study was not met, the high proportion of patients who had undetectable MRD in the bone marrow supports further investigation of this regimen, which is being tested against acalabrutinib-venetoclax and chemoimmunotherapy in an ongoing phase 3 study (NCT03836261).
Funding: AstraZeneca and a Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Collaborative Award.
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