UC San Diego Researchers launch combination drug trial to eradicate B-cell malignancies

IMAGE: Stained blood smear shows enlarged chronic lymphocytic leukemia cells among normal red blood cells. view more 

Credit: UC San Diego Health

Fueled by a multimillion dollar grant from the state’s stem cell agency, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, in collaboration with local biotechnology company Oncternal Therapeutics, have launched a phase Ib/II clinical trial to evaluate the combined effectiveness of a standard of care drug with a novel monoclonal antibody that target B-cell malignancies, which include leukemias and lymphomas.

The approach combines an experimental monoclonal antibody-based drug called cirmtuzumab with ibrutinib, a small molecule drug that inhibits Bruton’s tyrosine kinase, a protein that promotes cancer cell survival and growth. Ibrutinib, marketed as Imbruvica®, is already approved to treat B-cell cancers such as chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and mantle cell lymphoma (MCL). Cirmtuzumab targets ROR1, a cell surface protein present on tumors but not on normal adult tissues — a distinction that makes it an attractive target for anticancer therapy. Cirmtuzumab is currently in clinical trials for the treatment of CLL.

The objectives of the trial are to determine the safety of the combination, the optimal dose and regimen, and the duo’s effectiveness compared to


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