Scientist in laboratory testing medicine

A new drug has been approved on the PBS for the treatment of relapsed Chronic lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL) and small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL). Acalabrutinib (Calquence) inhibits BTK – an enzyme that is crucial for the survival of cancer cells in CLL and SLL. By inhibiting BTK, acalabrutinib both impairs the growth of these cells but also selectively programs them to die. From 1 Sept 2020, Australian patients with CLL and SLL whose disease has relapsed after front-line treatment with other agents, will have access to acalabrutinib on the PBS.

Even patients with high-risk disease such as deletion of chromosome 17p, have a better reduction of risk of death or disease progression when treated with acalabrutinib compared with standard treatments such as idelalisib plus rituximab or bendamustine plus rituximab.

Acalabrutinib is a capsule which is taken twice a day, making it very convenient. This is great news for patients who have relapsed after their initial therapy, where there are now numerous viable non-chemotherapy options for treatment, including ibrutinib, venetoclax and now acalabrutinib.

Kirsten Herbert

9th Sept 2020