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CLL ASH News 2018: Staying Informed About Clinical Trials

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Published on December 6, 2018

At the  2018 American Society of Hematology (ASH) conference in San Diego, Patient Power host and CLL patient advocate, Lee Swanson, interviews Dr. Adrian Wiestner, Senior Investigator, Laboratory of Lymphoid Malignancies at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) about research news from the meeting. Dr. Wiestner explains what developments could mean for patients and shares his advice for learning more about clinical trials.

This is a Patient Empowerment Network program produced by Patient Power. We thank Pharmacyclics for their support.

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Transcript | CLL ASH News 2018: Staying Informed About Clinical Trials

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That's how you’ll get care that's most appropriate for you.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Lee Swanson:

Hello.  I'm Lee Swanson, and this is the American Society of Hematology conference in a chilly San Diego today, at least by San Diego standards.  And we are here today just outside one of the meeting rooms where a lot of people, clinicians and researchers are finding out about new developments.  And joining me is Dr. Adrian Wiestner from the National Institutes of Health, the Heart, Blood and—Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.  

And what are the exciting things to you about the research developments in CLL at this conference?  

Dr. Wiestner:
So what's most exciting really is the development of novel therapies for patients, and that's—you can only say it's starting to be old news, because ibrutinib (Imbruvica) has been approved two years ago, but we're still learning about how well this treatment actually works for people and how it can start to replace chemotherapy probably for most everybody with CLL.  

And then there is exciting developments in regards to other treatments, venetoclax (Venclexta), some of the newer kinase inhibitors, so a lot of treatment choices being really worked out for patients.  

Lee Swanson:
And those are drugs we know about, the ones that you've mentioned.  There are a lot of things in the pipeline as well, aren't there?  

Dr. Wiestner:
There are things in the pipeline, but I think we actually have the tools or the color, if you wish, and now it's about really painting the path forward in the sense that how do we best integrate these different tools into one strategy.  And there's research on what strategy is maybe best fitted for some genetic profiles in CLL versus others. So if you have a very benign genetic profile in CLL, maybe just ibrutinib alone or a kinase inhibitor alone will work.  

We're learning that other patients will need combination therapy. We're seeing that combinations can be done safely.  We're learning that combinations can improve efficacy.  An example is the combination of these chimeric antigen receptor T cells, the CAR?T cells, is highly effective and patient?derived cells that can attack CLL.  So that becomes more efficacious and actually also better tolerated when you combine it with ibrutinib.  I think that's—this is an example of how we're still learning how to put the things together. 

Lee Swanson:
So from a patient's perspective how should they find out about clinical trials or new developments like this?  What's their best path?  

Dr. Wiestner:
So there are many good places to learn about this.  Patient Power is one of them.  There are other patient organizations that can be found on the 'net.  There's The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society that has information.  Then there is the NIH has several resources for patients.  So you can Google “clinical center CLL.” You can Google “NIH” in general.  There is a website that's called clinical trials where people can search with a disease, with a diagnosis, with a location, even with a treatment.  So it's very customizable to search for clinical trials in your area.  

Lee Swanson:
And then, of course, they have to figure out, work with their doctor to fill out if that's a fit for them.  

Dr. Wiestner:
Right.  Obviously, yes, for all clinical trials.  Yes. Yes.  That's—but a lot of the really exciting developments are transitioning into also clinical care.  There are big clinical trials set up by cooperative groups across the country, so there are—will be opportunities to really participate.  And I think it's—it is key to keep participating in the trials. We have the tools, but again how to best put them together can only be found out by clinical trials.  

Lee Swanson:
Okay. Well, thank you very much. Appreciate you being here with us today. 

Dr. Wiestner:
Thank you.  

Lee Swanson:
And I'm Lee Swanson at the American Society of Hematology conference. American Society of Hematology.  

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.