Awareness, Knowledge, and Preferences of United States (US) Patients with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) and Their Caregivers Related to Finite Duration (FD) Therapy and Minimal (Measurable) Residual Disease (MRD)

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washington; swedish; swedish cancer


Introduction: The management of CLL patients historically utilized FD chemoimmunotherapy (CIT), including fludarabine, cyclophosphamide and rituximab (FCR), or bendamustine and rituximab (BR). That changed with the introduction of Bruton Tyrosine Kinase inhibitors (BTKi) as an option for oral targeted monotherapy delivered continuously until disease progression or intolerance. Recently, novel combinations that include a B-cell lymphoma 2 inhibitor (BCL2i), such as venetoclax, have been developed as FD therapy. In addition, though not FDA approved, MRD assessment is emerging as a potential tool to guide FD therapy. Understanding the patient and their caregiver perspectives on FD and MRD is critical to providing the best care.

Methods: CLL Society developed a web-based survey instrument of multiple-choice questions to assess patient and caregiver awareness, understanding, and preferences with MRD and FD therapies, where FD referred to both time and MRD guided limited duration therapies. Patients and caregivers were invited to participate via message boards, CLL Society's website, email, and online communities.

Results: A total of 607 (96%) self-identified US patients and 36 (5%) caregivers, who answered on behalf of patients in their care, completed the survey between 31/AUG/2020 and 31/JAN/2021. The mean patient age was 64 (range, 30-90) years, 54% were female, 169 patients (27%) treatment-naïve, 239 (38%) with one line of prior therapy, and 214 (34%) with two or more. Targeted agents (e.g., venetoclax, ibrutinib, acalabrutinib, idelalisib, and duvelisib) had been used by 401 (64%). FD use with some novel therapies was known of by 565 (90%) patients, while 588 (93%) knew some were used as continuous daily treatment until disease progression or intolerance. If effectiveness and side effects were assumed similar, 485 (77%) preferred FD, and 398 (63%) wanted that finite treatment to be guided by MRD status. Only 42 (7%) preferred continuous therapy until disease progression or intolerance. The chance for continued remission while off treatment was ranked as a very important potential benefit after stopping a FD therapy by 581 (92%) patients. When considering therapy, 589 (93%), 575 (91%), 447 (71%), 415 (66%), 302 (48%), and 288 (46%) rated having overall survival, having future therapeutic options, avoiding chemotherapy, the ability to reach undetectable (u)MRD, minimal lab and office visits, and FD therapy as very important, respectively (Fig. 1). Being tested for MRD at least once was reported by 215 (34%), while 327 (52%) had not been tested, and 88 (14%) were unsure. There were 562 (89%) who were somewhat or very familiar with the term MRD, while 450 (71%) were confident of understanding what MRD testing measures, and 446 (70%) understood its role in CLL. Only 225 (36%) stated they understood different testing methods. While self-rated understanding of the indications for MRD testing was relatively high, some wanted testing done when not clinically indicated, such as when there was persistent CLL by routine laboratory findings, or at the time of diagnosis (Fig. 2). Respondents were mixed in their stated understanding as to which therapies could result in uMRD, with 241 (38%), 197 (32%), and 195 (32%) not knowing if CIT, BCL2i, and BTKi, could lead to uMRD, respectively. Two hundred and sixty-five (42%), 84 (13%), and 57 (9%) believed it was possible for most on a BCL2i, BTKi, or CIT to achieve uMRD, respectively (Fig. 3). If patients had evidence of MRD at the end of treatment, 365 (58%) would request frequent monitoring but would make no immediate treatment decisions based on MRD status, 279 (44%) were unsure, and only 88 (14%) would want further treatment immediately.

Conclusions: The results from this patient-based study reveal a high awareness of FD therapies and MRD testing, as well as a clear preference for FD among internet-active patients and caregivers. However, there are gaps in the knowledge base, thus significant educational opportunities. Limitations included the opt-in sample where the survey results may not be projectable to the total CLL population. Moreover, the survey was not designed to assess preferences if either FD or continuous therapy offered improved outcomes. Nonetheless, as the potential role of MRD and FD therapy grows in CLL it will be incumbent on clinicians to ensure patients are well informed and engaged to help them better share therapeutic decisions.

Clinical Institute