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A single drug effective for leukaemia therapy, say CEITEC researchers

New findings by the research team at CEITEC Masaryk University could lower both the toxicity and the price of the treatment.

Research team leader Marek Mráz.

A research team at CEITEC Masaryk University and the University Hospital Brno have published a scientific study refuting the previous conclusions on two drugs currently used in combination to treat patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. They recommend that idelalisib and rituximab are no longer used together.

“Since 2014, patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia all over the world have been treated with a regimen combining idelalisib and rituximab. Our new study shows that this commonly used, and clinically approved combination likely has no added benefits for the patient compared to idelalisib therapy,” says author Veronika Šandová. The study has been published in the international journal Haematologica and will probably have a significant impact on future clinical studies of idelalisib and its combinations with other drugs and possibly on other combined treatments.

“Our study confirms that effective treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia requires an understanding of the molecular activity at the level of the cancerous B-cells and how the cells behave in the tumour microenvironment, which is crucial for their survival and multiplication. At the same time, you need to have a thorough understanding of how the therapy and the drug combination works to achieve maximum treatment benefit for the patients,” says research team leader Marek Mráz who confirms that based on the research findings, it is probably not necessary to combine the two drugs to effectively treat leukaemia, which could lower both the toxicity and the price of the therapy.

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia is the most common leukaemic disease in adult patients in the Western Hemisphere. The disease causes the accumulation of lymphocytes, or white blood cells, in the patients’ blood, bone marrow and lymphatic organs such as lymph nodes and the spleen. It is more likely to affect older people; the average age at the time of diagnosis is between 65 and 72. The disease is usually discovered accidentally by a blood screening test during a regular medical or as a part of a pre-operative check-up.