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Expert Emphasizes Importance of Acalabrutinib Approval in MCL

Angelica Welch
Published: Thursday, Dec 14, 2017

Dr. Michael Wang
Michael Wang, MD,
The treatment of patients with mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) has undergone immense progress in the past year, says Michael Wang, MD. One of the biggest developments was the recent FDA approval of acalabrutinib (Calquence) for patients with relapsed disease.

In an interview with OncLive during the ASH 2017 Annual Meeting, Wang, professor in the Department of Lymphoma and Myeloma at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, discussed the impact of acalabrutinib on patients with MCL, ongoing progress in the field, and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Lymphoma Moonshot Program.

OncLive: Could you discuss the Lymphoma Moonshot Program?

Wang: B-cell lymphoma is a very common disease affecting many Americans. In the United States, about 0.7 million people live with lymphoma, and B-cell lymphoma accounts for the majority of lymphoma, and it has many subtypes. I am the co-leader of the Lymphoma Moonshot Program at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the mission of this program is to double the cure rate of B-cell lymphoma from 30% to 60% within 5 to 10 years. We are already 3 years into this program and we are making tremendous progress. The subtypes of B-cell lymphoma include large cell lymphoma, follicular lymphoma, marginal zone lymphoma, and MCL. 

The era of biological therapy is here, and chemo-free therapy is replacing chemotherapy. I am so excited, and this means so much to our patents—their quality of life, their survival, and their hope. Our generation is the luckiest generation in history, as we have more technology and knowledge—but we also have a duty to properly utilize this technology and these scientific advances to get the best benefit for our patients. My "American dream" is to contribute to the cure of MCL.

Can you provide some insight on acalabrutinib?

Acalabrutinib is a small-molecule drug that is taken orally twice a day, the side effects are minor, and it does not affect daily life much. The side effects include minor headaches, minor bruising, minor diarrhea, and fatigue, but the efficacy is powerful. There is an 81% response rate by Lugano Criteria, a 40% CR rate, and 94% of patients on this clinical trial had a dramatic reduction of their lymphoma masses. Do not underestimate chemo-free therapy—it is powerful. 

What are the next steps with this agent?

Combination therapy is almost always better than single-agent therapy. We would like to explore combinations with acalabrutinib in clinical trials so that we can get even better efficacy and survival. 

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