Disease Flare During Temporary Interruption of Ibrutinib Therapy in Patients with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

Paul J. Hampel, Timothy G. Call, Kari G. Rabe, Wei Ding, Eli Muchtar, Saad S. Kenderian, Yucai Wang, Jose F. Leis, Thomas E. Witzig, Amber B. Koehler, Amie L. Fonder, Susan M. Schwager, Daniel L. Van Dyke, Esteban Braggio, Susan L. Slager, Neil E. Kay, Sameer A. Parikh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Approximately 25% of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) experience a flare of disease following ibrutinib discontinuation. A critical question is whether this phenomenon may also occur when ibrutinib is temporarily held. This study aimed to determine the frequency and characteristics of disease flares in this setting and assess risk factors and clinical outcomes. Materials and Methods: We identified all patients with CLL seen at Mayo Clinic between October 2012 and March 2019 who received ibrutinib. Temporary interruptions in treatment and associated clinical findings were ascertained. Results: Among the 372 patients identified, 143 (38%) had at least one temporary interruption (median 1 hold, range 1–7 holds) in treatment. The median duration of interruption was 8 days (range 1–59 days) and the most common indication was periprocedural. Among the 143 patients with ≥1 hold, an associated disease flare was seen in 35 (25%) patients: mild (constitutional symptoms only) in 21 patients and severe (constitutional symptoms with exam/radiographic findings or laboratory changes) in 14 patients. Disease flare resolved with resuming ibrutinib in all patients. Predictive factors of disease flare included progressive disease at time of hold and ≥ 24 months of ibrutinib exposure. The occurrence of disease flare with an ibrutinib hold was associated with shorter event-free survival (hazard ratio 2.3; 95% confidence interval 1.3–4.1; p =.007) but not overall survival. Conclusion: Temporary interruptions in ibrutinib treatment of patients with CLL are common, and one quarter of patients who held ibrutinib in this study experienced a disease flare. Resolution with resuming ibrutinib underscores the importance of awareness of this phenomenon for optimal management. Implications for Practice: Ibrutinib is a very effective treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) but needs to be taken continuously. Side effects, such as increased bleeding risk with procedures, require temporary interruptions in this continuous treatment. Rapid CLL progression following ibrutinib discontinuation has been increasingly recognized. This study demonstrates that similar flares in disease signs or symptoms may occur during ibrutinib holds as well. Importantly, management with restarting ibrutinib led to quick clinical improvement. Awareness of this phenomenon among clinicians is critical to avoid associated patient morbidity and premature cessation of effective treatment with ibrutinib if the flare is misidentified as true progression of disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)974-980
Number of pages7
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020


  • B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • Drug therapy
  • Flareup
  • Ibrutinib

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Disease Flare During Temporary Interruption of Ibrutinib Therapy in Patients with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this