No. 10 Innovation: Targeted Therapy for Cancer (Video)

Drug kills malignant cells, spares healthy ones

Darts hitting target

Note: This story was updated Feb. 14, 2014.

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Cleveland Clinic asked more than 100 of its top experts about the innovations set to reshape healthcare in the coming year. These are their answers — the Top 10 Innovations for 2014.

You need B-cells. As part of your body’s natural defense system, they produce antibodies to fight infections and boost your long-term immunity.

But like most cells in your body, B cells can become cancerous. One B-cell cancer, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), is responsible for about 4,400 American deaths per year.

But there’s new hope in the form of ibrutinib, a first-in-class oral B-cell receptor pathway inhibitor. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just expanded the approved use of this drug to treat patients with CLL who have received at least one previous therapy. It’s likely that the FDA will also approve other B-cell pathway inhibitors.

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Better treatment, fewer side effects

Up until now, standard treatment for CLL has been chemotherapy, which comes with serious side effects and sometimes causes death in older patients. Ibrutinib offers a new alternative.

It kills malignant B-cells while sparing other healthy cells and leaving important parts of the immune system largely intact.

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In simpler terms, ibrutinib targets the molecules that help cancer grow and spread. Best of all, it kills malignant B-cells while sparing other healthy cells and leaving important parts of the immune system largely intact.

Clinical trials have been promising. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that at 26 months, the estimated survival rate without progression of cancer was 75 percent. Overall survival was 83 percent. Ibrutinib also has shown promise for treating other malignancies, including mantle cell lymphoma (MCL), a rare and aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

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