AbbVie Presents New Data from Phase 3 MURANO Trial of VENCLEXTA®/VENCLYXTO® (venetoclax) in Combination with Rituximab in Patients with Relapsed/Refractory Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Who Completed the Fixed Treatment Course

Sunday, December 2, 2018 Drug News
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- The data demonstrated that VENCLEXTA®/VENCLYXTO® in combination with rituximab (VenR) reduced the risk of disease progression or death compared to a standard of care, bendamustine plus rituximab (BR), after a median three-year follow-up[1]

NORTH CHICAGO, Ill., Dec. 1, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- AbbVie (NYSE: ABBV), a research-based global biopharmaceutical company

today presented updated data from the pivotal Phase 3 MURANO trial of venetoclax (VENCLEXTA® or VENCLYXTO®) in combination with rituximab (VenR). The results at median follow-up of 36 months demonstrated that the majority of patients with relapsed/refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia (R/R CLL), treated with VenR, did not experience disease progression or death (PFS; the time on treatment without disease progression or death2) after all patients completed the fixed duration of therapy and stopped treatment, compared to patients treated with a standard of care regimen of bendamustine plus rituximab (BR).1 The estimated PFS rate at 36 months was 71.4 percent (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.64, 0.78) for patients treated with VenR compared with 15.2 percent (95% CI: 0.09, 0.21) for patients who completed treatment with a standard of care combination of BR (hazard ratio [HR]: 0.16; 95% CI: 0.12, 0.23).1 The data were presented today during the 60th American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting & Exposition.

Of the 130 patients who completed the two-year treatment course of venetoclax and remained off therapy for a median of 9.9 months (range: 1.4 to 22.5), six- and 12-month PFS estimates were 92 percent (95% CI: 0.87, 0.96) and 87 percent (95% CI: 0.81, 0.93), respectively.1 At the time of analysis, the overall survival (OS) benefit estimated at three years was approximately 10 percent higher in the VenR arm (87.9 percent) than in the BR arm (79.5 percent) (HR: 0.50; 95% CI: 0.30, 0.85).1

"There is a need for a chemo-free option with a fixed treatment duration that can potentially provide prolonged progression-free survival, along with minimal residual disease negativity, in patients with relapsed or refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia," said Prof. John Seymour, MBBS, Ph.D., lead investigator of the MURANO trial and Director of the Department of Hematology at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre & Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia. "The results of this analysis showed that a high proportion of patients with relapsed or refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia who were treated with venetoclax in combination with rituximab maintained minimal residual disease negativity and progression-free survival well after completing the fixed treatment duration."  

In the MURANO clinical trial, 78 percent of patients who completed the two-year treatment course of VenR without disease progression (N=114) also demonstrated minimal residual disease (MRD)-negativity in peripheral blood.1 MRD-negativity was a secondary endpoint assessed at the end of combination therapy (nine-month assessment1,3,4). MRD-negativity (also known as undetectable MRD) is an objective measure defined as the presence of less than one CLL cell in 10,000 white blood cells remaining in the blood or bone marrow following treatment.2 Earlier prospective clinical trials in CLL patients have provided evidence that achieving MRD-negativity is associated with improved clinical outcomes.2

"This analysis of the MURANO clinical trial showed that after patients had completed rituximab and a two-year course of venetoclax, and were off treatment for a median of 9.9 months, the disease did not progress in a substantial number of patients with relapsed or refractory chronic lymphatic leukemia, and in many of those patients the disease was undetectable in peripheral blood," said Neil Gallagher, M.D., Ph.D., Head of Global Oncology Development, AbbVie. "These findings continue to support the use of venetoclax plus rituximab as a treatment with a fixed duration for patients with relapsed or refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia and are encouraging as we continue to advance the research and development of transformative medicines in blood cancers."

Safety data were consistent with the known safety profiles of each medicine alone. During the venetoclax single-agent treatment phase (N=171), 10 percent of patients had an adverse event (AE) leading to drug withdrawal, 4 percent had an AE leading to dose reduction, 26 percent had an AE leading to dose interruption, and 4 percent had a fatal AE (four other cancers, two cardiac, one pneumonia). Grade 3/4 AEs occurred in 35 percent of patients. The most common Grade 3/4 AEs were neutropenia (12 percent), anemia (3 percent) and thrombocytopenia (2 percent). Seven percent of patients had a Grade 3/4 infection during the single-agent phase.1

Venetoclax, a first-in-class oral B-cell lymphoma-2 (BCL-2) inhibitor, is being developed by AbbVie and Roche. It is jointly commercialized by AbbVie and Genentech, a member of Roche Group, in the U.S. and by AbbVie outside the U.S.

Design and Results of MURANO Phase 3 Trial A total of 389 patients with R/R CLL who had received at least one prior therapy were enrolled in the international, multicenter, open-label, randomized, Phase 3 MURANO trial. The trial was designed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of venetoclax in combination with rituximab (N=194) compared with bendamustine in combination with rituximab (N=195). The median age of patients in the trial was 65 years (range: 22 to 85).5

The primary efficacy endpoint was investigator (INV)-assessed PFS. Median PFS with venetoclax in combination with rituximab was not reached compared with 17.0 months for bendamustine in combination with rituximab (HR: 0.17; 95% CI: 0.11, 0.25; P<0.0001). In the primary efficacy analysis, the median follow-up for PFS was 23.8 months (range: 0.0 to 37.4). Additional efficacy endpoints included independent review committee (IRC)-assessed PFS, INV- and IRC-assessed overall response rate (defined as complete response + complete response with incomplete marrow recovery + partial response + nodular partial response), OS and rates of MRD-negativity.5

About VENCLEXTA®/VENCLYXTO® (venetoclax)  VENCLEXTA®/VENCLYXTO® (venetoclax) is a first-in-class medicine that selectively binds and inhibits the B-cell lymphoma-2 (BCL-2) protein. In some blood cancers and other cancerous tumors, BCL-2 builds up and prevents cancer cells from undergoing their natural death or self-destruction process, which is called apoptosis. VENCLEXTA/VENCLYXTO targets the BCL-2 protein and works to restore the process of apoptosis.

VENCLEXTA/VENCLYXTO is being developed by AbbVie and Roche. It is jointly commercialized by AbbVie and Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, in the U.S. and by AbbVie outside of the U.S. Together, the companies are committed to BCL-2 research and to studying venetoclax in clinical trials across several blood and other cancers. 

VENCLEXTA/VENCLYXTO is approved in more than 50 countries, including the U.S. AbbVie and Roche are currently working with regulatory agencies around the world to bring this medicine to additional eligible patients in need.

Important VENCLEXTA® (venetoclax) US Safety Information3

What is the most important information I should know about VENCLEXTA? 

VENCLEXTA can cause serious side effects, including:Tumor lysis syndrome (TLS). TLS is caused by the fast breakdown of cancer cells. TLS can cause kidney failure, the need for dialysis treatment, and may lead to death. Your health care provider will do tests to check your risk of getting TLS before starting and during treatment with VENCLEXTA to help reduce your risk of TLS. You may also need to receive intravenous (IV) fluids into your vein. Your health care provider will do blood tests in your first 5 weeks of treatment to check you for TLS during treatment with VENCLEXTA.  It is important to keep your appointments for blood tests. Tell your health care provider right away if you have any symptoms of TLS during treatment with VENCLEXTA, including fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, confusion, shortness of breath, seizures, irregular heartbeat, dark or cloudy urine, unusual tiredness, or muscle or joint pain.

Drink plenty of water when taking VENCLEXTA to help reduce your risk of getting TLS. Drink 6 to 8 glasses (about 56 ounces total) of water each day, starting 2 days before your first dose, on the day of your first dose of VENCLEXTA, and each time your dose is increased.

Who should not take VENCLEXTA?

Certain medicines must not be taken when you first start taking VENCLEXTA and while your dose is being slowly increased because of the risk of increased tumor lysis syndrome.

  • Tell your health care provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. VENCLEXTA and other medicines may affect each other, causing serious side effects.
  • Do not start new medicines during treatment with VENCLEXTA without first talking with your health care provider.

Before taking VENCLEXTA, tell your health care provider about all of your medical conditions, including if you:Have kidney or liver problems.

  • Have problems with your body salts or electrolytes, such as potassium, phosphorus, or calcium.
  • Have a history of high uric acid levels in your blood or gout.
  • Are scheduled to receive a vaccine. You should not receive a "live vaccine" before, during or after treatment with VENCLEXTA until your health care provider tells you it is okay. If you are not sure about the type of immunization or vaccine, ask your health care provider. These vaccines may not be safe or may not work as well during treatment with VENCLEXTA.
  • Are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. VENCLEXTA may harm your unborn baby. If you are able to become pregnant, your health care provider should do a pregnancy test before you start treatment with VENCLEXTA, and you should use effective birth control during treatment and for 30 days after the last dose of VENCLEXTA. If you become pregnant or think you are pregnant, tell your health care provider right away.
  • Are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. It is not known if VENCLEXTA passes into your breast milk. Do not breastfeed during treatment with VENCLEXTA.

What should I avoid while taking VENCLEXTA? You should not drink grapefruit juice, eat grapefruit, Seville oranges (often used in marmalades), or starfruit while you are taking VENCLEXTA. These products may increase the amount of VENCLEXTA in your blood.

What are the possible side effects of VENCLEXTA?VENCLEXTA can cause serious side effects, including:

  • Low white blood cell count (neutropenia). Low white blood cell counts are common with VENCLEXTA, but can also be severe. Your health care provider will do blood tests to check your blood counts during treatment with VENCLEXTA. Tell your health care provider right away if you have a fever or any signs of an infection while taking VENCLEXTA.

The most common side effects of VENCLEXTA when used in combination with rituximab include low white blood cell count, diarrhea, upper respiratory tract infection, cough, tiredness, and nausea.

The most common side effects of VENCLEXTA when used alone include low white blood cell count, diarrhea, nausea, upper respiratory tract infection, low red blood cell count, tiredness, low platelet count, muscle and joint pain, swelling of your arms, legs, hands, and feet, and cough.

VENCLEXTA may cause fertility problems in males. This may affect your ability to father a child. Talk to your health care provider if you have concerns about fertility.

These are not all the possible side effects of VENCLEXTA. Tell your health care provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

People are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

The full U.S. prescribing information, including Medication Guide, for VENCLEXTA can be found here. Globally, prescribing information varies; refer to the individual country product label for complete information.

Important VENCLYXTO (venetoclax) EU Safety Information4

ContraindicationsHypersensitivity to the active substance or to any of the excipients is contraindicated. Concomitant use of strong CYP3A inhibitors at initiation and during the dose-titration phase due to increased risk for tumor lysis syndrome (TLS). Concomitant use of preparations containing St. John's wort as VENCLYXTO efficacy may be reduced.

Special Warnings & Precautions for UseTumor lysis syndrome (TLS), including fatal events, has occurred in patients with previously treated CLL with high tumor burden when treated with VENCLYXTO. VENCLYXTO poses a risk for TLS in the initial 5-week dose-titration phase. Changes in electrolytes consistent with TLS that require prompt management can occur as early as 6 to 8 hours following the first dose of VENCLYXTO and at each dose increase. Patients should be assessed for risk and should receive appropriate prophylaxis, monitoring, and management for TLS.

Neutropenia (grade 3 or 4) has been reported and complete blood counts should be monitored throughout the treatment period. Serious infections including events of sepsis with fatal outcome have been reported. Supportive measures including antimicrobials for any signs of infection should be considered.

Live vaccines should not be administered during treatment or thereafter until B-cell recovery.

Drug InteractionsCYP3A inhibitors may increase VENCLYXTO plasma concentrations. At initiation and dose-titration phase: Strong CYP3A inhibitors are contraindicated due to increased risk for TLS and moderate CYP3A inhibitors should be avoided. If moderate CYP3A inhibitors must be used, physicians should refer to the SmPC for dose adjustment recommendations. At steady daily dose: If moderate or strong CYP3A inhibitors must be used, physicians should refer to the SmPC for dose adjustment recommendations.

Avoid concomitant use of P-gp and BCRP inhibitors at initiation and during the dose titration phase.

CYP3A4 inducers may decrease VENCLYXTO plasma concentrations.  Avoid coadministration with strong or moderate CYP3A inducers. These agents may decrease venetoclax plasma concentrations. 

Co-administration of bile acid sequestrants with VENCLYXTO is not recommended as this may reduce the absorption of VENCLYXTO.

Adverse ReactionsThe most commonly occurring adverse reactions (>=20%) of any grade in patients receiving venetoclax in the combination study with rituximab were neutropenia, diarrhea, and upper respiratory tract infection. In the monotherapy studies, the most common adverse reactions were neutropenia/neutrophil count decreased, diarrhea, nausea, anemia, fatigue, and upper respiratory tract infection.

The most frequently occurring serious adverse reactions (>=2%) in patients receiving venetoclax in combination with rituximab or as monotherapy were pneumonia, febrile neutropenia and TLS.

Discontinuation due to adverse reactions occurred in 16% of patients receiving venetoclax plus rituximab and 9% receiving venetoclax monotherapy.  Dosage adjustments due to adverse reactions occurred in 15% of patients receiving venetoclax plus rituximab and 2% receiving venetoclax monotherapy. Dose interruptions occurred in 71% of patients treated with the combination of venetoclax and rituximab. 

Specific PopulationsPatients with reduced renal function (CrCl <80 mL/min) may require more intensive prophylaxis and monitoring to reduce the risk of TLS.  Safety in patients with severe renal impairment (CrCl <30 mL/min) or on dialysis has not been established, and a recommended dose for these patients has not been determined. VENCLYXTO should be administered to patients with severe renal impairment only if the benefit outweighs the risk and patients should be monitored closely for signs of toxicity due to increased risk of TLS.

VENCLYXTO may cause embryo-fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman. Advise nursing women to discontinue breastfeeding during treatment.

This is not a complete summary of all safety information. See VENCLYXTO full summary of product characteristics (SmPC) at Globally, prescribing information varies; refer to the individual country product label for complete information.

About AbbVie in OncologyAt AbbVie, we strive to discover and develop medicines that deliver transformational improvements in cancer treatment by uniquely combining our deep knowledge in core areas of biology with cutting-edge technologies, and by working together with our partners – scientists, clinical experts, industry peers, advocates, and patients. We remain focused on delivering these transformative advances in treatment across some of the most debilitating and widespread cancers. We are also committed to exploring solutions to help patients obtain access to our cancer medicines. With the acquisitions of Pharmacyclics in 2015 and Stemcentrx in 2016, our research and development efforts, and through collaborations, AbbVie's oncology portfolio now consists of marketed medicines and a pipeline containing multiple new molecules being evaluated worldwide in more than 200 clinical trials and more than 20 different tumor types. For more information, please visit

About AbbVieAbbVie is a global, research and development-based biopharmaceutical company committed to developing innovative advanced therapies for some of the world's most complex and critical conditions. The company's mission is to use its expertise, dedicated people and unique approach to innovation to markedly improve treatments across four primary therapeutic areas: immunology, oncology, virology and neuroscience. In more than 75 countries, AbbVie employees are working every day to advance health solutions for people around the world. For more information about AbbVie, please visit us at Follow @abbvie on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram.

Forward-Looking StatementsSome statements in this news release are, or may be considered, forward-looking statements for purposes of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. The words "believe," "expect," "anticipate," "project" and similar expressions, among others, generally identify forward-looking statements. AbbVie cautions that these forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated in the forward-looking statements. Such risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, challenges to intellectual property, competition from other products, difficulties inherent in the research and development process, adverse litigation or government action, and changes to laws and regulations applicable to our industry. Additional information about the economic, competitive, governmental, technological and other factors that may affect AbbVie's operations is set forth in Item 1A, "Risk Factors," of AbbVie's 2017 Annual Report on Form 10-K, which has been filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. AbbVie undertakes no obligation to release publicly any revisions to forward-looking statements as a result of subsequent events or developments, except as required by law.

1 Seymour J, et al. MURANO trial establishes feasibility of time-limited venetoclax-rituximab (VenR) combination therapy in relapsed/refractory (R/R) chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Presented at the 2018 American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting & Exposition: December 1, 2018; San Diego.2 Hallek M, Cheson BD, Catovsky D, et al. Guidelines for diagnosis, indications for treatment, response assessment and supportive management of chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Blood. 2018;806398.3 VENCLEXTA (venetoclax) [Package Insert]. North Chicago, IL.: AbbVie Inc.4 Summary of Product Characteristics for VENCLYXTO (venetoclax). Ludwigshafen, Germany: AbbVie Deutschland GmbH & Co. KG.5 Seymour JF, Kipps TJ, Eichhorst B, et al. Venetoclax-rituximab in relapsed or refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia. N Engl J Med. 2018;378(12):1107-1120.


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