Dr. Brian Koffman: My Perspective on ASCO 2015

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Topics include: Treatments and Patient Stories

Patient Power host Carol Preston caught up with Dr. Brian Koffman at the 2015 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting to hear his perspective on developing CLL research announced at the conference. Dr. Koffman shares his thoughts on what developing news could mean for patients and discusses CLL Society, a recently launched online resource.

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Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.  

Carol Preston:

Hello everyone, and welcome to Patient Power.  I'm Carol Preston, and we are at ASCO, the American Society of Clinical Oncology where thousands of researchers have gathered over the past several days and continuing to present the latest research on a number of cancers, solid tumor cancers but also blood cancers. 

And a very, very good friend of Patient Power joins us here today, Brian Koffman.  It is awfully good to see you.  

Dr. Koffman:

It's great to see you, too. 

Carol Preston:

Good to see you, you're… 

Dr. Koffman:

…yeah, two CLL survivors here. 

Carol Preston:

Two CLL survivors. 

Dr. Koffman:

Yeah.  A little bit of a different path, but we're both in good places. 

Carol Preston:

Yeah, we're both in good places.  You're doing well, and I'm doing well. And what I would like to hear since this is not the big meeting for blood cancers, but whatever there is you certainly have been taking it all in.  So what are you hearing?  What is your perspective?  

Dr. Koffman:

You're absolutely right.  I mean, at ASH there's too much to see, and here there's a few papers that are worth talking about.  But, you know, even though the quantity isn't much the quality of some of this stuff is really hearing about.  

So one of the interesting presentations, and I think there was only three oral presentations in this whole mega meeting on CLL, but one of the interesting ones is one that came out of Germany and Professor Michael Hallek's group, which is called CLL IPI.  And they've taken a look at all that plethora of prognostic factors, and it's so complicated and what should a patient do and what should their physician work up? And they've divided it down to five factors, and they graded them on a value. 

And if you're in the low-risk category, you have none of the bad prognostic factors, they call you a no-touch patient.  And if you're in the second to lowest risk, you're a not-treat.  And then they kind of go up into where if you're in the highest risk, you should not be getting chemo, you should be on novel therapies or in a clinical trial. 

And this is going to really change how clinical trials and maybe how the community is treating patients because it's a very simple kind of basic kind of approach that just gives you a numerical system.  The downside to their research is that it only applies sort of to the chemoimmunotherapy world and hasn't really been tested on the novel therapies.  But it's really a very interesting consensus.  There were 3,000-plus patients that they tested in Europe, and then they validated it against a group of over 700 from Mayo, so it's, you know, very exciting data. 

There was the first trial that looked at triplet therapy with a novel CD20 antibody, PI-3 kinase inhibitor and a BTK inhibitor.  And there [have] been worries about the safety of combining these signal pathways. And though the data is very early, we're not seeing any signal that there's any danger, and we're certainly seeing a signal that it's efficacious. 

There was a study that was presented that looked at looking at bendamustine (TREANDA®) and rituximab (Rituxan®), which is a common treatment with or without ibrutinib (IMBRUVICA®).  

Carol Preston:

Which is what you're on right now, isn't it? 

Dr. Koffman:

Right.  I'm on ibrutinib.  I've been on that for three years.  

Carol Preston:

Yeah. 

Dr. Koffman:

Yeah, over three years now.  So—and that trial, as we might expect, showed a significant benefit for the patients on ibrutinib, its continuation.  The question about that trial is would those patients have done just as well down the line without even the bendamustine-rituximab in.  And that's a question that a lot of the researchers are asking. 

Carol Preston:

Yeah, so much going on, and, boy, you and I could speak for the next hour. 

Dr. Koffman:

Right. 

Carol Preston:

So let me just ask you one more question…

Dr. Koffman:

Sure. 

Carol Preston:

…as we wrap it up.  You are really so laser focused since you got CLL with now what's called the CLL Society.  Just tell us quickly what patients can expect when they go to CLL Society. 

Dr. Koffman:

So CLL Society, cllsociety.org, the O-R-G, is a 501(c)(3) not profit, and I think it's the only website that's dedicated specifically to CLL.  It's the only patient-driven, physician-curated website, and they're going to get the basic information, but they're going to get beyond the basics.  We have some pretty advanced stuff.  They're going to get conference coverage like this, but what I try to do is unpack that for patients, explain it, contextualize it, give them the ability to link to the original source material and stuff.  We have tools for them to use, spreadsheets for them to download on keeping their labs, ways to keep track…

Carol Preston:

Cool.  

Dr. Koffman:

…of everything.  It's a ton of stuff and it's—I'm so excited about it, yeah. 

Carol Preston:

Yeah, you should be, and you should be very, very proud of the work that you're doing, you know, taking adversity, as it were, and turning it into a real positive. 

Dr. Koffman:

Good.  Thanks.  

Carol Preston:

Well, of course, it's always great to see you.  

Dr. Koffman:

Great to see you. 

Carol Preston:

Let's keep seeing each other in good health…

Dr. Koffman:

I'm sure we will, yeah. 

Carol Preston:

…as CLLers.  Thank you so much, Brian.  Look forward… 

Dr. Koffman:

Thank you.  I'll see you at ASH, I'm sure.  

Carol Preston:

…you bet.  You bet. 

Dr. Koffman:

All right.  Okay.  Good.  

Carol Preston:

All right.  Thanks very much.  Brian Koffman, a great friend to Patient Power, and now he has cllsociety.org, all very patient?centric, patient?driven, and there's so much advance in CLL that it's breathtaking. 

I'm Carol Preston reporting from ASCO.  And remember that knowledge can be the best medicine of all.  

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

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Page last updated on June 26, 2015