Targeted agents have replaced conventional chemotherapy in treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) with substantially improved outcomes in CLL with TP53 alterations (del17p or TP53 mutations). Whereas fludarabine, cyclophosphamide, and rituximab chemoimmunotherapy (CIT) had a median progression-free survival (mPFS) of 11.2 months and median overall survival (mOS) of 33.1 months as frontline therapy in del17p CLL (Fisher et al. Blood 2016), we previously reported a 6-year PFS of 61% and OS of 79% in CLL with TP53 alterations receiving frontline continuous ibrutinib (Ahn et al. NEJM 2020). In a similar patient subset, the CLL14 study demonstrated a mPFS of 51.9 months and a 5-year OS of 60.0% using fixed-duration venetoclax and obinutuzumab (Al-Sawaf et al. EHA 2023; Al-Sawaf et al. Nat. Comm 2023). Although more effective than CIT, long-term outcomes in the era of targeted therapy are not yet fully defined. With a median follow-up of nearly 10 years, we analyzed efficacy, safety, and depth of response in CLL patients treated with long-term ibrutinib therapy in a phase 2 study (NCT01500733).


Eligible patients had high-risk CLL, defined by TP53 alterations or age ≥65 years-old (N = 84 evaluable), and received ibrutinib 420 mg orally once daily until disease progression or intolerable side effects. Response assessments were performed annually with CT scans up to five years and subsequently with physical exam. Minimal residual disease (MRD) was performed annually with peripheral blood flow cytometry. Undetectable MRD (uMRD) was defined as <1 CLL cell per 10,000 leukocytes. For patients discontinuing the study, long-term outcomes were obtained when possible through a separate natural history study (NCT00923507).


As of December 31, 2022, a median follow-up of 113 months and 117 months (reverse Kaplan-Meier) was available for calculation of PFS and OS, respectively. The mPFS for all patients was 85.9 months (Table 1). mPFS was significantly shorter in those with TP53 alterations (67.3 months, N = 53) vs. those without (not reached, N = 31) and in relapsed disease (49 months, N = 32) vs. frontline treatment (108 months, N = 52). The OS at 117 months was 58.5% for all patients, 73.8% for treatment-naïve patients, and 54.1% in patients with TP53 alterations. Among patients with TP53 alterations receiving frontline ibrutinib (N = 34), the mPFS was 81 months with an OS of 69.7% at 117 months.

Most patients (82.1%, 69/84) had discontinued ibrutinib at the time of analysis with 15 patients (17.9%) remaining on therapy. 37 (44.0%) patients discontinued ibrutinib for progressive disease including 6 cases with histologic transformation. 27 (32.1%) patients discontinued therapy related to treatment-emergent adverse events (AEs) including 8 cardiac AEs (four cases were grade ≥2 atrial fibrillation), 7 second cancers, 4 infections, 3 cases of dementia (ages 78, 80, and 85), 2 pleural effusions, and 3 other AEs. Five patients (5.9%) withdrew from the study with 4 switching to commercial supply of ibrutinib and one changing to CAR-T therapy.

uMRD was observed in 15.4% (13/84) of all patients. The median time to uMRD was 5 years (range: 2 - 10 years). There was no enrichment in these patients for Rai stage ≥3-4, unmutated IGHV, TP53 alteration, prior treatment, or age. Most patients achieving uMRD also had a complete response (CR) to therapy (10/13) and remained progression-free at last follow-up (12/13). The one patient with progressive disease achieved uMRD and CR at 24 months, had detectable MRD at 36 months, and had nodal progression at 60 months. Among the progression-free patients, 8 had subsequent MRD assessments demonstrating sustained uMRD for 1-6 years including one patient who had been off any CLL-directed therapy for 4 years.


These results further define the long-term prognosis of patients treated with BTK inhibitors for CLL, most notably with substantial improvements in the OS of patients with TP53 alterations over CIT. Additionally, these results may inform discussions of continuous BTK inhibitor therapy versus fixed-duration venetoclax combinations in frontline therapy of high-risk CLL. In a subset of ibrutinib-treated patients, depth of response increased over multiple years to the point of uMRD suggesting the possibility that such patients might safely discontinue therapy, following paradigms established in patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia.

Itsara:Adaptive Biotechnologies: Other: Spouse - current employment and stock options.. Sun:Genmab: Research Funding. Ahn:AstraZeneca: Consultancy; BeiGene: Consultancy. Wiestner:Secura Bio: Research Funding; Genmab: Research Funding; Acerta: Research Funding; Merck: Research Funding; Pharmacyclics: Research Funding; Nurix: Research Funding.

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