The medication was so effective in mantle cell lymphoma, an aggressive, incurable cancer, that the Food and Drug Administration named ibrutinib a "breakthrough" drug. The unprecedented response — 68 percent of patients went into partial or complete remission when they took it — gained the agent accelerated approval last November.
But the disease remains a challenge. Researchers, including those at Weill Cornell Medical College who participated in the ibrutinib clinical trial, found that lymphoma cells in the majority of patients who were taking the drug on its own became resistant to it, either quickly or over time. And patients whose disease progressed often saw their tumors grow faster than before.
Selina Chen-Kiang, PhD
Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Professor of Microbiology and Immunology
Now a research team led by Weill Cornell Medical College has revealed key insight into why late resistance occurs. And it has shown in preclinical studies that two different drug-treatment strategies may be useful for patients in whom ibrutinib does not work. More than 66,000 new cases of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are diagnosed in the United States each year, with mantle cell representing an important subset.
The findings, published in Cancer Discovery, have quickly led to a new clinical trial sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. Weill Cornell is recruiting mantle cell lymphoma patients to participate.