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Lymphoma and Leukemia Care

Will Targeted Therapies Work for CLL?

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Summary & Participants

Initially approved for specific types of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, the monoclonal antibody Rituxan is now being used by to treat Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia or CLL. At a recent medical conference, experts discussed the success of this stategy, as well as the use of other targeted therapies for CLL. Join Dr. Kanti Rai and Dr. Joseph Connors as they discuss the latest findings.

Medically Reviewed On: July 21, 2012

Webcast Transcript

BRET SCOTT: I'm Bret Scott in Orlando, Florida, site of this year's meeting of the American Society of Hematology.

Monoclonal antibody therapies that directly attack cancer cells are a hot topic in medicine. At this year's meeting, several research presentations focused on the use of these therapies for chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL. I sat down with some of the experts to learn more about this development.

Dr. Rai, is Rituxan improving on traditional treatments for CLL? And if so, how?

KANTI RAI, MD: Rituxan is indeed improving on traditional treatment, if one considers today in year 2001 that fludarabine is the standard treatment for CLL. We get just so much of what we call "remission rate" with fludarabine. And we find that when we add Rituxan to fludarabine, the remission rate is practically doubled.

BRET SCOTT: Dr. Connors, will Rituxan be used differently to treat CLL compared with NHL? I'm thinking schedule and dose here.

JOSEPH M. CONNORS, MD, FRCPC: I would expect that it will. The schedule that works for a tumor-like lymphoma, where the cells are settled in one place in the body may well be different from the schedule that works best for a leukemia, where the malignant cells circulate around in the bloodstream. So I think we may expect different doses, different schedules and even different lengths or durations of treatment.

BRET SCOTT: Dr. Rai, any thoughts?

KANTI RAI, MD: Rituxan in lymphoma is given once a week for several weeks. Four weeks, six weeks, eight weeks. And it is quite effective in those patients.

But when you give Rituxan in the same manner to a person with CLL, it just does not have much activity. However, when you give Rituxan in combination with other standard chemotherapy drugs and, instead of giving it on a weekly basis, you give it once a month, the combination is a blockbuster.

BRET SCOTT: Dr. Rai, several treatment options for CLL using Rituxan were discussed at this meeting. Can you briefly explain the main options?

KANTI RAI, MD: Well, let me explain to you that the introduction of Rituxan in CLL is relatively recent happening. So we cannot claim that we know everything as to how to use Rituxan in the most effective manner for our patients with CLL. Therefore there are lots of combinations and permutations being tried with an objective of finding out what works best for what group of patients.

BRET SCOTT: Dr. Connors, how will Rituxan be used in treating younger patients versus older patients with CLL?

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