Occupying prime corner real estate right by a pizza parlor in the massive hall, the MD Anderson Physician Relations booth had 225 physician visitors by early afternoon. With scientists and physicians in lectures and seminars most of the day, traffic is feast (during breaks) or famine.
MD Anderson faculty are always a major, influential presence at ASH, the world's premier meeting about the science and diseases of the blood.
New drugs could spell end of chemo for chronic lymphocytic leukemia
His clinical trial of the drug ibrutinib combined with rituximab (Rituxan) for high-risk CLL patients with resistant disease attracted attention because 38 of 40 patients were still on the drug and in remission at four months. Side effects have been mild.
"Although this study has a short follow-up time so far, we're encouraged that the vast majority of patients are responding and can continue treatment," Burger said. "We still need long-term follow up to see if the remissions are durable and the low toxicity endures."
The high-risk patients in the clinical trial are essentially out of treatment options.
Rituximab is thought to block a resistance mechanism to ibrutinib. Earlier and ongoing clinical studies by MD Anderson and other research teams indicate ibrutinib alone is highly effective for patients with lower risk disease.
Chemotherapy combinations are curative for most CLL patients, but the harsh treatment can lead to lethal secondary cancers for some.
For more details, see the MD Anderson news release about the study and the ASH study abstract (click OK at the opening page and you'll get to the abstract.) CLL is one of the eight cancers targeted by MD Anderson's Moon Shots Program.
Burger presents his findings to other scientists and physicians Sunday afternoon.