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The Importance of Clinical Trials for CLL

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Published on April 8, 2021

Experts Share Information on CLL Clinical Trials

In this video excerpt from our "Evening with the Docs" event, two CLL experts explain why clinical trials are so important for the treatment and continued research of CLL. The segment also includes information on what patients should know about clinical trials, how CLL research is evolving today, and how your care team may change after joining a clinical trial.

Host and patient advocate Michele Nadeem-Baker is joined by Dr. Shachar Peles, MD, Medical Oncologist/Hematologist and Dr. Michael Diaz, MD, Medical Oncologist/Hematologist at Florida Cancer Specialists for this exciting and informative video.

Support for this series has been provided by AbbVie, Inc. and Genentech, Inc. Patient power maintains complete editorial control and is solely responsible for program content.


Transcript | The Importance of Clinical Trials for CLL

Michele Nadeem-Baker: Welcome. I have with me oncologists-hematologists, here to discuss chronic lymphocytic leukemia, otherwise known as CLL, and they are from the Florida Cancer Specialists and Research Institute, our partner in producing this series of events. Hi Doctors. Welcome.

Dr. Peles:  Hi, good evening. So, I'm Shachar Peles. I see a little bit of everything, but probably 80% of what I do is hematology, including hematologic malignancies. And I have a whole bunch of CLL patients that I follow.

Dr. Diaz:  And my name is Michael Diaz. I'm a medical oncologist and hematologist. I practice in St. Petersburg, Florida. We see a lot of CLL patients.

Michele Nadeem-Baker:  Thank you. We're going to be talking more about all the various kinds of treatments that are available now and clinical trials​. Here's our next poll for the audience, so get ready, and it's about clinical trials – where our conversation is bringing us. And it's have you participated in a clinical trial? Yes, or no? So, the majority has not participated, it's 79%, 21% have and as far as clinical trials, Dr. Diaz, have you had patients participate in them?

Dr. Diaz:  We do when appropriate. So obviously one of the things that we always want to consider, anytime we have a patient with a new diagnosis or disease progression, we always want to see what all of the options are. Yes, we want to know what the standards of care are. We want to balance those against what potential clinical trials do we have to offer the patient. And one of the things that is nice, at least, and Dr. Peles can vouch for this, being in an extremely large oncology practice, we have access to a lot of state-of-the-art medications. We aren't just answering academic questions with most of our clinical trials, most of the trials that we have involve promising therapeutics that either have good pre-clinical trial data or have been demonstrated to be useful in earlier phase studies, or in other cancers. And so, it sort of depends on a lot of things.

It depends on what the patient is a candidate for, what clinical trials are available, but you always want to be asking that every step of the way, is there a clinical trial that might be better than the standard of care? Obviously, if there is not and the standard of care is very good and the patient is a good candidate for the standard of care, we can still present them with the options. They're the ones that ultimately decide. I've had some patients that say, "I'm at least going to get the standard of care in this clinical trial and then I may or may not get another medicine that may or may not help. I'm willing to go through that extra effort because people can learn from it." And so that's one of the reasons why you want to bring it up because some clinical trials do use as a standard comparison arm or in either arm, a standard of care treatment, so that's some of the things you have to take into account.

Why Are Clinical Trials Important for CLL Treatment and Research?

Dr. Peles:  Yeah. So clinical trials are super, super important. They're how we learn. They're how we got to where we are now. And as much as we're doing better than we did in the past, we can still improve, there's still room for improvement, right? We could see CLL patients living longer, we could maybe get to a point where we're curing CLL. And so clinical trials really shouldn't be looked at by patients as something to do when you've run out of options and you've had all the standard treatments. There's something to consider even in upfront therapy, because there may be a trial available that's looking at a treatment regimen or combination that may well land up being better than the current standard of care, and that may allow you as the patient access to a drug that is not yet commercially available, and FDA approved that lands up being the next best drug for CLL. And so, it's something that, as a patient, you should always ask about and look at each trial in detail and based on its merits, decide whether it's appropriate for you as an individual to participate or not.

Michele Nadeem-Baker: Do any of your patients ever ask about seeing a CLL specialist for their opinion on things like a clinical trial that you have, Dr. Peles, and do you ever work with specialists?

Should CLL Patients Who Are Considering a Clinical Trial Seek a Second Opinion First?

Dr. Peles:  Yes, absolutely. Patients do ask and patients often will travel outside of Florida to meet with oncologists who solely treat CLL patients and may have availability of trials of a particular trial that maybe they're interested in that we do not have down here, and I think most of us in Florida have become very accustomed to the idea of snowbirds, right? We have patients who spend part of the year somewhere up North and part of the year down here in Florida, and so I think we've gotten very good at this sort of seamless transition of care. And essentially, we do the same thing with these patients who may travel to see a specialist in another state, or even participate in a trial, that when they're down here in Florida we're responsible for them and taking care of their needs and communicating with the other doctor who's involved in their care and we'll work together as a team.

Michele Nadeem-Baker:  And that's something that is really exciting for CLL patients, because there are so many treatments to choose from. There are so many in the pipeline that are in clinical trial,​ ​which is, as you had said, Dr. Peles, it can be really tomorrow's treatment today that someone's getting. What do you think about a cure in our lifetime for CLL? I mean, there are so many different types of CLL, but what do you think about the idea of a cure or cures for CLL?

Dr. Peles: I think it's something that could become a reality. With the newer drugs we have and combinations that are being looked at, it is possible that we may see it. And some of the data in CLL from the clinical trials looks very encouraging.

Dr. Diaz:  And I think that as we study these new technologies more and more, we will figure out more innovative ways in which we can direct what we've learned to help fight. And I'm not going to use the “C word” right now, but hopefully in my career, my lifetime, we'll see very long-term duration remissions for conditions that we used to think are not curable.

Michele Nadeem-Baker:  And these things are just so very hopeful. Remember, knowledge is the best medicine of all.

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