Background: Bruton tyrosine kinase (BTK) is a critical component of B-cell receptor signaling and a validated target for CLL. Acalabrutinib is a highly selective, potent, covalent BTK inhibitor, which has shown promising efficacy and safety in patients with CLL, including high-risk patients. We present preliminary efficacy, safety, and pharmacodynamic results from an ongoing single-center, open-label, phase 2 study of acalabrutinib monotherapy in patients with R/R and high-risk, TN CLL.

Methods: Patients with R/R or high-risk (chromosome 17p deletion [del17p] or mutation in TP53 or NOTCH1) TN CLL/small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL) who met International Workshop on Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (IWCLL) 2008 criteria for treatment and had an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status ≤2 were eligible. Patients who had prior BTK inhibitor therapy were excluded. Patients were randomized to receive oral acalabrutinib 100 mg twice daily (BID) or 200 mg daily (QD) until progressive disease or unacceptable toxicity. The primary endpoint was investigator-assessed overall response rate (ORR) by IWCLL 2008 criteria with modification for lymphocytosis. Secondary endpoints included safety and BTK occupancy. BTK occupancy was measured with a biotin-tagged analogue probe in peripheral blood cells at drug trough time points after 3 days of dosing and after 1, 6, and 12 mo of treatment. BTK occupancy in lymph node samples was measured at drug trough time points after 3 days of dosing.

Results: Forty-six patients were enrolled and treated (100 mg BID, n=22; 200 mg QD, n=24). The median age was 64 years (range, 45-83), and 35% (16/46) were TN. Approximately 39% of patients (25% of TN) had bulky lymph nodes ≥5 cm, 37% (50% of TN) had Rai stage III-IV disease at baseline, 76% (88% of TN) had unmutatedIGHV, 21% (40% of TN) had del(17p), 21% (23% of TN) had TP53 mutation, and 47% (54% of TN) had NOTCH1 mutation. As of April 13, 2018, the median time on study for all treated patients was 20 mo (range 1-39), with 89% (41/46) remaining on acalabrutinib. Two patients (9%) in the BID group and 3 patients (13%) in the QD group discontinued treatment due to an adverse event (AE; n=1), progressive disease (n=1), and other reasons (n=3). The patient who discontinued due to progressive disease (BID group) achieved partial response at 2 mo and developed Richter transformation at 6 mo.

The ORR was 90% (95% CI: 76, 97) for efficacy evaluable patients (N=39), defined per protocol as patients who had ≥ 6 mo of acalabrutinib (Table). ORR was 95% (75, 100) and 84% (60, 97) for the BID and QD group, respectively. For the intent-to-treat population (N=46), ORR was 80% (66, 91). Most AEs were grade 1/2 and did not require dose delays or modifications. The most common AEs (all grades; >25%) were headache (63%), contusion (50%), diarrhea (43%), upper respiratory tract infection (43%), arthralgia (33%), influenza-like illness (28%), maculo-papular rash (28%), myalgia (26%), and nausea (26%). Grade 3/4 AEs occurred in 33% (15/46) of patients (BID, 27% [6/22]; QD, 38% [9/24]), most commonly (>10%) infections (13%; urinary tract infection, lung infection, hepatitis B reactivation, which led to treatment discontinuation and fatal hepatic failure after 10 mo of treatment, and an invasive pulmonary aspergillosis at 2 mo in the setting of prolonged neutropenia and recent systemic corticosteroid use that led to treatment discontinuation) and neutropenia (11%). Approximately 33% (15/46) of patients (BID, 23% [5/22]; QD, 42% [10/24]) reported serious AEs (all grades), most commonly (>5%) lung infection (7%). No atrial fibrillation was reported, and one grade 1 atrial flutter occurred (BID).

On day 4 of cycle 1, median trough BTK occupancy was significantly higher for the BID group versus the QD group in the peripheral blood (95% vs 87%; P<0.001) and in the lymph node (98% vs 90%, P<0.001). Median trough BTK occupancy in the peripheral blood was also higher for the BID group at 1, 6, and 12 mo (range, 98%-99% for BID vs 95%-97% for QD; P<0.05 at all time points).

Conclusion: Acalabrutinib monotherapy produced high ORR in R/R and high-risk TN CLL, with an acceptable safety profile. The study was not designed to detect a statistically significant difference in clinical outcomes between the dosing groups. Near complete target coverage (>95%) was more rapidly achieved with 100 mg BID than 200 mg QD dosing in the lymph node and peripheral blood.


Nierman:National Institutes of Health: Employment. Covey:Acerta Pharma: Employment; AstraZeneca: Equity Ownership. Hamdy:Acerta Pharma: Employment, Equity Ownership, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Patents & Royalties: various patents for ACP-196. Izumi:Acerta Pharma: Employment, Equity Ownership, Patents & Royalties: Acerta Pharma, various patents for ACP-196. Liu:Acerta Pharma: Employment. Patel:Acerta Pharma: Employment, Equity Ownership. Wiestner:Pharmacyclics LLC, an AbbVie Company: Research Funding.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.