A clinical trial for a promising new chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) drug has become the first in Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research’s Trials Acceleration Programme (TAP) network to fully complete patient recruitment. The ‘IciCLLe’ trial, run by doctors at Leeds’ St James’s University Hospital, looked into ways to enhance the effectiveness of ibrutinib.
Ibrutinib is taken in tablet form and has been shown to extend survival in patients who stop responding to traditional chemotherapy, with limited side-effects. IciCLLe, which took place at eight hospitals across the UK, reached its target of 40 patients in just under 10 months - showcasing the effectiveness of the TAP network.
The TAP Network
TAP is a unique network of 13 leading hospitals across the UK, coordinated by a dedicated and specialist team at the University of Birmingham. It was set up in 2011 by Leukemia & Lymphoma Research to enable potentially life-saving new drugs to enter early stage clinical trials and reduce the length of time it takes for these trials to finish.
Professor Peter Hillmen, who is leading the IciCLLe trial at St James’s Hospital, said: “The TAP network provides the research community in the UK with a unique opportunity to rapidly improve blood cancer treatment, as well as providing patients with access to many new effective drugs. The programme maintains the UK’s position at the forefront of research into blood cancers.”
Testimony from a patient on the IciCLLe trial:
“I was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia in 2007 at the age of 48. Life carried on as normal until 2013, when blood tests showed my platelet count had started to fall. I was monitored for many months and put on a course of steroids, but my platelets continued to drop. Even though I was still working, I felt shattered. I was in hospital for a time with pneumonia.
“My specialist told me that it looked like I would have to start on chemotherapy. Just the word ‘chemo’ conjures up pretty frightening images and I searched on to the internet for possible alternatives. I came across the IciCLLe trial at St James’s Hospital in Leeds and arranged to see Professor Hillmen. After speaking to him I felt absolute confidence in his judgement. Tests to find out if I was a suitable candidate for the trial showed that I ticked all the boxes.
“After one week of starting on the ibrutinib tablets, the lumps in my neck had nearly gone. It was amazing. Within two weeks, blood tests showed that my white blood cells were down and my platelet count was up. After five or six months on ibrutinib, my platelet count is now virtually normal. It really is a wonder drug.
“I’m playing squash three times a week and holding my own against 25 year olds! Every month I’m improving and the side-effects are negligible. People would never guess that I had CLL, I’m not tired anymore. I take three tablets in the morning – that’s it.
“I couldn’t praise the doctors and nurses running the clinical trial enough. My treatment has been fantastic. I’ve seen first-hand where the money invested by charities like Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research goes.”