BACKGROUND: Data regarding the efficacy of treatment with ibrutinib-rituximab, as compared with standard chemoimmunotherapy with fludarabine, cyclophosphamide, and rituximab, in patients with previously untreated chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) have been limited. METHODS: In a phase 3 trial, we randomly assigned (in a 2:1 ratio) patients 70 years of age or younger with previously untreated CLL to receive either ibrutinib and rituximab for six cycles (after a single cycle of ibrutinib alone), followed by ibrutinib until disease progression, or six cycles of chemoimmunotherapy with fludarabine, cyclophosphamide, and rituximab. The primary end point was progression-free survival, and overall survival was a secondary end point. We report the results of a planned interim analysis. RESULTS: A total of 529 patients underwent randomization (354 patients to the ibrutinib-rituximab group, and 175 to the chemoimmunotherapy group). At a median follow-up of 33.6 months, the results of the analysis of progression-free survival favored ibrutinib-rituximab over chemoimmunotherapy (89.4% vs. 72.9% at 3 years; hazard ratio for progression or death, 0.35; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.22 to 0.56; P<0.001), and the results met the protocol-defined efficacy threshold for the interim analysis. The results of the analysis of overall survival also favored ibrutinib-rituximab over chemoimmunotherapy (98.8% vs. 91.5% at 3 years; hazard ratio for death, 0.17; 95% CI, 0.05 to 0.54; P<0.001). In a subgroup analysis involving patients without immunoglobulin heavy-chain variable region (IGHV) mutation, ibrutinib-rituximab resulted in better progression-free survival than chemoimmunotherapy (90.7% vs. 62.5% at 3 years; hazard ratio for progression or death, 0.26; 95% CI, 0.14 to 0.50). The 3-year progression-free survival among patients with IGHV mutation was 87.7% in the ibrutinib-rituximab group and 88.0% in the chemoimmunotherapy group (hazard ratio for progression or death, 0.44; 95% CI, 0.14 to 1.36). The incidence of adverse events of grade 3 or higher (regardless of attribution) was similar in the two groups (in 282 of 352 patients [80.1%] who received ibrutinib-rituximab and in 126 of 158 [79.7%] who received chemoimmunotherapy), whereas infectious complications of grade 3 or higher were less common with ibrutinib-rituximab than with chemoimmunotherapy (in 37 patients [10.5%] vs. 32 [20.3%], P<0.001). CONCLUSIONS: The ibrutinib-rituximab regimen resulted in progression-free survival and overall survival that were superior to those with a standard chemoimmunotherapy regimen among patients 70 years of age or younger with previously untreated CLL. (Funded by the National Cancer Institute and Pharmacyclics; E1912 ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT02048813.).
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