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The Porsche effect of TAP trials

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04 May 2018

Professor Peter Hillmen at St James's University Hopsital in Leeds explains how researchers are using different treatment combinations to create possible cures for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

Professor Peter Hillmen and Dr Talha Munir, Consultant Haemotologist at St James's University Hospital having a discussion
Professor Peter Hillmen (left) and Dr Talha Munir, Consultant Haemotologist at St James's University Hospital having a discussion

“I’ve been caring for people with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) for 20 years.

“Back in the 1990s, if chemotherapy or other standard treatments didn’t work then a patient’s life expectancy could be measured in one or two years. I was determined to do more for them.

“Things are dramatically different now. So much important innovation is happening.

“We are better at unpicking the disease and finding out what’s going wrong. We’ve developed therapies aiming to switch off the bad cells that grow too quickly and don’t turn off, or to make sure the body is fighting the right cells.

“The last six years spent testing the new therapies has had a positive impact for our patients. Even when chemotherapy doesn’t work, we expect to help the patient with new drug combinations.

“We are part of the Trials Acceleration Programme (TAP) programme, which speeds up clinical trials. TAP is like a new Porsche compared to a Robin Reliant – driving drug development faster so that more patients benefit more quickly.

“I’ve been leading CLARITY, one of the CLL trials in TAP. It was the first in the world to test a new combination of targeted drugs called ibrutinib and venetoclax in people with CLL who had either relapsed or had not responded to previous treatment.

“Within just 18 months, every patient had responded to the treatment. Even better, half of them had gone into complete remission. This was way more than anyone expected.

“Because CLARITY was so positive, we will now test the effectiveness of the drug combination against standard chemotherapy or ibrutinib alone in people with CLL who have not previously received any treatment.

“The ‘Porsche’ effect of the Bloodwise TAP programme helps non-clinical trial patients too.

“Our CLL trials in TAP are testing lots of new treatments, and in different combinations really quickly.

“So this enables any promising treatments to reach patients in the NHS faster.

“What’s more, these new therapies reach patients in the UK whereas previously the pharmaceutical companies would have done the research elsewhere or sent the treatments to patients in other countries. So thanks to Bloodwise supporters, patients here in the UK are being treated earlier and directly benefiting from research that was funded in the UK.

“We continue to keep trying new drug combinations to help those few patients for who the latest therapies don’t work. But as we find new combinations and start those combinations earlier, we expect even more patients to recover.

“I think that with so many new and better targeted drugs, there there is now a real possibility that we are on the cusp of curing CLL and making chemotherapy a thing of the past.”

St James's University Hospital is part of the Trials Acceleration (TAP) programme, which speeds up blood cancer clinical trials.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE TAP PROGRAMME

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