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Ibrutinib Treatment In Waldenström Macroglobulinemia

Ibrutinib Treatment In Waldenström Macroglobulinemia

Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM) is a rare type of non-hogdkins lymphoma driven by the gene mutation MYD88L265P. Ibrutinib, the first approved treatment, is effective but can cause side effects. A study found that 27% of WM patients needed to reduce Ibrutinib doses due to side effects like muscle pain, heart issues, and skin problems. Most patients improved after dose reduction, and 79% maintained or improved their blood counts after three years. It shows that reducing Ibrutinib doses can help WM patients manage side effects effectively.



Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM) is a rare but clinically significant lymphoma characterized by an IgM paraprotein and bone marrow infiltration by lymphoplasmacytic cells [1]. In more than 90% of WM cases, a critical somatic mutation known as MYD88L265P is identified, which plays a crucial part in enhancing the growth and survival of malignant cells through the activation of Bruton tyrosine kinase (BTK) via Toll-like receptor signaling [2,3].

The introduction of Ibrutinib, the first FDA-approved BTK inhibitor, marked a significant milestone in the treatment of WM and other B-cell malignancies [4]. Ibrutinib demonstrated its efficacy in WM through various studies, including an initial phase 1 trial that included WM patients, with a notable majority achieving hematologic responses [4].

However, despite its effectiveness, Ibrutinib can come with various adverse effects, leading to the need for dose reductions in some patients [5]. Common side effects include musculoskeletal symptoms, cardiac events, dermatologic issues, cytopenias, and gastrointestinal symptoms [5]. These side effects can be particularly troubling for patients, and it’s crucial to understand their frequency and impact.

Therefore, this study aims to investigate the frequency and consequences of reducing Ibrutinib dosages in WM patients who experience intolerable side effects [5]. By analyzing a substantial cohort of WM patients treated with Ibrutinib, this research seeks to shed light on the outcomes following dose reductions and their impact on hematologic responses [5]. Such insights will provide valuable guidance for clinicians managing WM patients facing Ibrutinib-related adverse events.



This study retrospectively analyzed patients treated with Ibrutinib at a research center between May 2012 and October 2020. Clinicopathological data were collected for Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM) patients who received Ibrutinib, including age at diagnosis, age at Ibrutinib initiation, sex, reasons for treatment initiation, and disease characteristics. Response to Ibrutinib was evaluated using modified criteria from the 6th International Workshop for WM, defining various response levels. PFS (progression-free survival) and overall survival (OS) were determined based on the time from Ibrutinib initiation to disease progression or death.



The analysis used Descriptive statistics to present patient and disease characteristics, and differences between variables were assessed using appropriate statistical tests. Various patient characteristics, such as age, sex, treatment status, laboratory values, and predictive scoring, were analyzed to identify factors associated with dose reduction. Survival analysis was done using the Kaplan-Meier technique and log-rank test, with Cox proportional hazards regression models to assess variables associated with dose reductions and PFS. The results are reported as HR (hazard ratios) with 95% confidence intervals (CI). The statistical software STATA 17 was used for calculations and graph generation.



 A retrospective analysis was performed on 383 WM patients treated with ibrutinib. Clinicopathological data were collected, and patients were assessed using modified response criteria. This research focused on identifying factors associated with dose reductions, the time to dose reduction, and the impact on hematologic response :

  • 27% (96 out of 353) of WM patients required dose reductions due to adverse events.
  • The median time to the first dose reduction was 9.3 months.
  • Dose reductions were more frequent in patients 65 years or older and females.
  • Most patients (65%) experienced improvement or resolution of adverse effects after the initial dose reduction.
  • With a median follow-up of (3) three years from dose reduction, 79% of patients maintained or improved their hematologic response.
  • Disease progression occurred in 13% of patients, with a median time to progression of 30 months.
  • Patients requiring dose reduction had a better PFS (progression-free survival) compared to those who did not require dose reduction.

The study suggests that dose reduction of ibrutinib is a reasonable treatment approach for WM patients with intolerable side effects. In most cases, it led to improved or stable hematologic responses and did not negatively impact PFS.

These results highlight the importance of managing adverse effects while maintaining treatment efficacy in WM patients receiving ibrutinib.



In this study, which included over 350 patients with Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM) receiving treatment with ibrutinib, it was observed that approximately 27% of the participants required a dose reduction due to adverse effects [1]. This rate is notably higher than what was initially reported in trials involving ibrutinib for WM and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) [2], [3], [4]. However, it aligns with recent real-world data on the use of ibrutinib in CLL, where a 24% rate of dose reduction was reported, as well as findings from studies involving WM patients, which reported 18% dose reductions [1], [5], [6]. Common adverse effects associated with ibrutinib, such as cytopenias, fatigue, atrial fibrillation, infections, bleeding, and musculoskeletal symptoms, were the predominant reasons for dose reductions in this cohort, consistent with previous research involving CLL and WM patients receiving ibrutinib treatment [1].

One noteworthy discovery in this study pertains to the disparity in dose reductions between male and female patients [1]. A significantly higher proportion of women than men required dose reductions (p < 0.001), although the underlying cause of this gender-based discrepancy remains unclear [1]. Previous pharmacokinetic data from ibrutinib studies in CLL patients did not indicate gender-related differences in drug exposure [1], [7]. This divergence in dose reduction between genders in WM could be associated with pharmacokinetic variations, differential patient symptom reporting, or disparities in healthcare provider responses to adverse effects [1]. Likewise, age played a significant role, as older participants were more likely to require dose reduction than their younger counterparts [1]. The reasons for this age-related variance are not yet well understood, but potential factors might encompass comorbid conditions, age-related pharmacokinetic alterations, differing patient symptom profiles, or variations in healthcare provider approaches to managing adverse effects based on age [1]. Importantly, this age-related discrepancy was not observed in previous studies involving CLL patients requiring dose reductions [1], [8], [9].

These findings indicated that despite dose reductions, most patients could maintain their hematologic response and, in some cases, even experienced a deepening of this response [1]. This observation is in line with prior studies that have reported similar outcomes for patients with CLL who underwent reduced-dose ibrutinib treatment compared to those on the full dose [1], [11], [12].

However, it’s important to note that not all adverse effects improve with dose reduction. In particular, bleeding subsided in less than 50% of patients, and atrial fibrillation remained unchanged in 40% of cases and resolved in only 10% [1]. It suggests that, beyond considering ibrutinib dose reduction, healthcare providers might explore transitioning patients to more selective Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitors, such as acalabrutinib or zanubrutinib [1]. Recent trials have indicated lower adverse effect rates with these alternative BTK inhibitors compared to ibrutinib, making them potential options for patients intolerant to ibrutinib [1], [13], [14], [15], [16]. 

Intriguingly, this study observed that patients requiring dose reductions due to adverse events might have a reduced risk of disease progression or death [1]. The exact cause of this improvement in outcomes among patients requiring dose reductions is not yet clear. It could be associated with altered drug metabolism, leading to higher drug concentrations, increased sensitivity to BTK inhibition, a reduction in life-threatening drug-related adverse effects, or potentially, a higher proportion of patients with CXCR4 mutations in those not undergoing dose reductions, which may have contributed to healthcare providers’ hesitancy to recommend dose reductions due to concerns about disease progression risk [1]. Further extensive research is warranted to confirm these findings and uncover the underlying mechanisms.


This study highlights that many Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM) patients on ibrutinib experience adverse effects necessitating dose reductions, particularly among women and older individuals. Despite these reductions, most patients were able to maintain their hematologic response. Exploring alternative Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitors or therapeutic strategies for managing adverse effects should be considered. However, additional research is required to validate these findings and assess newer treatment options in WM [1].



  • Retrospective Study Design: The study’s retrospective nature means that it relied on historical data and medical records, which may introduce biases and limitations related to data accuracy and completeness. This type of study design cannot establish causality and is subject to confounding variables that may not have been considered.


  • Single-Center Study: The research was conducted at a single medical center. It could limit the generalizability of the findings to a broader population. Different centers may have varying practices, patient demographics, and treatment access, potentially affecting the results’ applicability elsewhere.


  • Unexplored Factors: The study did not investigate certain variables that could influence adverse effects and dose reductions, such as patient weight, liver function, or specific comorbid conditions. These factors can be critical in treatment tolerability and response.


  • Timing of Study: The study was conducted before the availability of second-generation BTK inhibitors. This limitation means that it may not fully represent current treatment practices and options available to patients. Newer therapies might impact dosing strategies and outcomes.


  • Need for Further Research: While the study provides valuable insights into ibrutinib dose reductions in Waldenström macroglobulinemia, its limitations highlight the necessity for additional research. Future research should aim to confirm these results in more extensive and diverse populations and explore utilizing newer therapies to address treatment challenges.

These limitations are essential to consider when interpreting the study’s results and when applying them to clinical practice.



This study highlights the significance of dose adjustments in ibrutinib treatment for Waldenström macroglobulinemia, with notable gender and age variations in dose reductions. It provides insights into sustaining hematologic responses after dosage reduction yet is constrained by its retrospective, single-center design. Future research should prioritize personalized dosing approaches and explore alternative therapies in Waldenström macroglobulinemia management. 



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