• Time-limited acalabrutinib, venetoclax and obinutuzumab induced deep and ongoing remissions in patients with relapsed/refractory CLL

  • The addition of ctDNA-based analyses to conventional flow cytometry appears to improve early detection of molecular and clinical relapses

The phase 2 CLL2-BAAG trial tested the measurable residual disease (MRD)-guided triple combination of acalabrutinib, venetoclax and obinutuzumab after an optional bendamustine debulking in 45 patients with relapsed/refractory CLL (one patient was excluded from the analysis due to a violation of exclusion criteria). MRD was measured by flow cytometry (FCM, undetectable MRD <10-4) in peripheral blood (PB) and circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) by digital droplet PCR (ddPCR) of variable-diversity-joining (VDJ) rearrangements and CLL-related mutations in plasma. MRD recurrence was defined as detectable ctDNA and/or MRD ≥10-4 after achieving both uMRD/undetectable ctDNA. The median number of previous treatments was 1 (range 1-4), 18 patients (40%) had received a BTK inhibitor (BTKi) and/or venetoclax prior to inclusion, 14/44 (31.8%) had TP53 aberrations, 34 (75.6%) had unmutated IGHV. With a median observation time of 36.3 months and all patients off treatment for a median of 21.9 months, uMRD <10-4 in PB was achieved in 42/45 patients (93.3%) at any time point, including 17/18 (94.4%) previously exposed to venetoclax/BTKi and 13/14 (92.9%) with TP53 aberrations. The estimated three-year progression-free and overall survival rates were 85.0% and 93.8%. Overall 585 paired FCM/ctDNA samples were analyzed and 18 MRD recurrences (5 with and 13 without clinical progression) occurred after the end of treatment. Twelve were first detected by ctDNA, three by FCM and three synchronously. Patients with earlier detection by ctDNA appeared to have genetically higher risk disease. In conclusion, time-limited MRD-guided acalabrutinib, venetoclax and obinutuzumab achieved deep remissions in almost all patients with relapsed/refractory CLL. The addition of ctDNA-based analyses to FCM MRD assessment seems to improve early detection of relapses. ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03787264

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