This is good news from now on for patients under the age of 70 who are being treated for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Bret Friday, oncologist and researcher of Essentia Health in Duluth.
"Ten years ago The majority of cancer patients, whether it is CLL or other cancers, has been the primary treatment for chemotherapy," he said. "And I just think of chemotherapy – these poisons are a bit more selective for cancer cells, but also harm other parts of the body."
A new generation of cancer drugs, known as targeted therapies, focus on the offending cells and reduce the damage elsewhere, Freitag said. Such a drug called ibrutinib has already been used in later stages of CLL treatment, he said. The question: Would it be more effective than chemotherapy as a first-line treatment and at the same time with less residual effects in conjunction with a drug called rituximab?
That's what the developers of the study, in which Essentia participated, said on Friday. Although CLL is the most common form of adult leukemia ̵
But Friday may be studies in which the local numbers are small, he said.
"We have 60 to 80 studies open, and we're really trying to open up trials for patients with less common diseases or situations," he said. "And so many of the studies we've opened can only enroll one or two patients for these studies."
One Essentia patient was Jerry Maurer, 66, of Carlton, who was diagnosed with CLL in 2013.  CLL is one of the few cancers that does not necessarily need to be treated, said Freitag, who was not a mason's oncologist.
In Maurer's case, it was not until August 2015 that his leucocytes reached a point at which treatment was given. At the time, Essentia was involved in the process, and Maurer agreed to attend.
"It was a simple call," said Maurer, who has a masters in behavioral rehabilitation and runs a consulting firm for adults and family care homes. "I've always tried to look for the best options."
Friday sees participation in clinical trials as a win-win situation. Depending on where the patient happens to be enrolled in the study, he or she will either receive a state-of-the-art treatment for their disease that would otherwise be unavailable or they will receive the treatment that is currently the gold standard.
Maurer would have been satisfied, he said. "But I kept my fingers crossed and hoped that I would be in Arm A (the Ibrutinib)."
He had his wish.
"From there I went every three months, had blood tests done, met the nurse, Deb Ronding, who does an excellent job," Maurer said. "She's really strict about the protocol, I always teased her about keeping me in line, and that's a good thing."
Each time his number of white blood cells was stable.
Similar results were obtained According to the National Institutes of Health press release of December 4, a total of 529 patients were found in the study. Overall, the risk of disease progression in patients in the ibrutinib group is 65 percent lower than in the chemo group, the researchers said at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology on 4 December.
But enough evidence was in.
"They did the interim analysis and found that the results were so good that it was really unethical to continue the process," said Friday.
How often is a process stopped because of good results?
"Less common than we would like," said Friday with a hint of giggles. "It's probably one of 20 studies."
It is more common for studies to be discontinued because they do not work as hoped, said Friday.
Maurer's diagnosis came from a physical routine and not because he felt uncomfortable, he said.
Even so, as the treatments worked out, he realized he was feeling better than before, and his energy state was good, he said. The only side effect that he has noticed is occasionally blood bubbles on his hands or in his mouth, and these have decreased.
This is very different from chemotherapy, which can endanger the immune system and endanger patients who are serious or even life-threatening. Threatened infections, said Friday.
But Maurer had reservations: Now that the trial has been suspended, the cost of his three daily doses of Ibrutinib will still be covered?
"If not," Maurer is told. (The study was still covered, said a spokeswoman for Essentia Health.)
The Drugs.com website is pricing the price of Ibrutinib's Imbruvica brand name at $ 12,612 for 28 70-mg capsules. There is no generic version.
If the price looks amazing to you, Friday is the same.
"I can not believe they demand so much," said Freitag. "It's amazing that we allow that."
But he is also thrilled with how ibrutinib and other targeted therapies are changing the face of cancer treatment. It is possible that these treatments will progress because Masons and others agree to participate in clinical trials.
"It's nice to be able to return to him and say," Look, you're part of this study and because you're part of this study, we've changed our treatment now, "said Friday.
"And that will help anyone else who has been diagnosed with cancer. "