Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) patients who are refractory or resistant to treatment can be encouraged by data showing significantly longer survival without disease progression with a treatment combining venetoclax and rituximab compared to treatment with bendamustine plus rituximab.

The long term follow on study from the MURANO trial demonstrated that more patients receiving venetoclax remained disease free three years after stopping treatment of rituximab combined with venetoclax.

Professor John Seymour, Director of Haematology at Peter Mac, noted to his knowledge the results seen for survival without disease progression were better than any other cancer immunotherapy treatment in a relapsed refractory chronic lymphocytic leukaemia population.

The findings from the follow on MURANO trial were recently published in the scientific journal Blood.

At five years the overall survival for patients receiving venetoclax was 82 per cent compared to 62 per cent in those receiving bendamustine.

The MURANO trial reported in September 2020. Refractory or relapsed CLL patients received two years of treatment combining rituximab with either venetoclax or bendamustine.

The venetoclax rituximab combination allowed patients to receive a chemotherapy free cancer treatment that was effective in eliminating detectable cancer more often.

In the follow-up trial it was determined that the benefits of venetoclax were sustained over a long period of time with encouraging outcomes for CLL patients.

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia is a slow growing leukaemia that affects B-cells, a white blood cell that plays a role in your immune response. 

Around 1,000 Australians are diagnosed every year with CLL and while somewhat rare, it is the most common form of leukaemia in Australia.

The MURANO trial, and the follow-up study, was led by Professor John Seymour at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and involved clinical sites around the world to recruit over 300 patients.