The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Gazyva™ (obinutuzumab) for use in combination with chlorambucil to treat patients with previously untreated chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is the most common form of adult leukemia. The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 15,000 people will be diagnosed and 4,580 will die from CLL this year. Currently, there are approximately 95,000 people in the United States living with CLL.
CLL is characterized by the production of atypical lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are specialized immune cells that exist in two forms: B- and T-cells. These cells are produced in the bone marrow and each serves a specific function in aiding the body to fight infection. The large majority of CLL cases involve mature B-lymphocytes that tend to live much longer than normal. B-lymphocytes accumulate in the blood, bone marrow, lymph nodes, and spleen. This results in overcrowding of these areas and suppression of the formation and function of blood and immune cells. Additionally, the cancerous lymphocytes themselves do not function normally, leading to a further reduction in the body’s ability to fight infection. The disease tends to get worse slowly.
Gazyva works by helping certain cells in the immune system attack cancer cells. Gazyva is intended to be used with chlorambucil, another drug used to treat patients with CLL.
Gazyva’s approval was based on the results of a randomized study that included 356 with previously untreated CLL who received Gazyva in combination with chlorambucil or chlorambucil alone. Participants receiving Gazyva in combination with chlorambucil demonstrated a significant improvement in progression free survival: an average of 23 months compared with 11.1 months with chlorambucil alone.
The most common side effects observed in participants receiving Gazyva/chlorambucil were infusion-related reactions, a decrease in infection-fighting white blood cells (neutropenia), a low level of platelets in the blood (thrombocytopenia), low red blood cells (anemia), pain in the muscles and bones (musculoskeletal pain), and fever (pyrexia).
Gazyva is the first drug with breakthrough therapy designation to receive FDA approval. The FDA can designate a drug a breakthrough therapy at the request of the sponsor if preliminary clinical evidence indicates the drug may offer a substantial improvement over available therapies for patients with serious or life-threatening diseases.
Gazyva was also approved as part of the FDA’s priority review program, which allows an expedited six-month review of drugs that may offer major advances in treatment. Gazyva was also granted orphan product designation because it is intended to treat a rare disease or condition.
FDA approves Gazyva for chronic lymphocytic leukemia. [FDA News Release]. U.S. Food and Drug Administration website. Available at:
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