(HealthDay News) — For patients with previously untreated chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) or small lymphocytic lymphoma, ibrutinib is superior to chlorambucil, according to a study published online Dec. 6 in the New England Journal of Medicine. The research was published to coincide with the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology, held from Dec. 5 to 8 in Orlando, Fla.

Jan A. Burger, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and colleagues randomized 269 previously untreated patients aged 65 years or older (median age, 73 years) with CLL or small lymphocytic lymphoma to receive ibrutinib or chlorambucil.

The researchers found that ibrutinib correlated with significantly longer progression-free survival compared with chlorambucil during a median follow-up of 18.4 months (median, not reached versus 18.9 months). The risk of progression or death was significantly lower with ibrutinib versus chlorambucil (hazard ratio, 0.16; P < 0.001). Ibrutinib correlated with significantly prolonged overall survival, with an estimated survival rate at 24 months of 98 and 85 percent, respectively, for ibrutinib and chlorambucil and a reduced risk of death in the ibrutinib group (hazard ratio, 0.16; P = 0.001). Ibrutinib correlated with a higher overall response rate (86 versus 35 percent; P < 0.001).

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“Ibrutinib was superior to chlorambucil in previously untreated patients with CLL or small lymphocytic lymphoma, as assessed by progression-free survival, overall survival, response rate, and improvement in hematologic variables,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to biopharmaceutical companies, including Pharmacyclics, which manufactures ibrutinib and partially funded the study.

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