The Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitor ibrutinib has outstanding activity in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Most patients experience lymphocytosis, representing lymphocyte egress from nodal compartments.
This resolves within 8 months in the majority of patients, but a subgroup has lymphocytosis lasting >12 months. Here we report a detailed characterization of patients with persistent lymphocytosis during ibrutinib therapy. Signaling evaluation showed that while BTK is inhibited, downstream mediators of B-cell receptor (BCR) signaling are activated in persistent lymphocytes. These cells cannot be stimulated through the BCR and do not show evidence of target gene activation.
Progression-free survival is not inferior for patients with prolonged lymphocytosis vs those with traditional responses. Thus, prolonged lymphocytosis is common following ibrutinib treatment, likely represents the persistence of a quiescent clone, and does not predict a subgroup of patients likely to relapse early.
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