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FDA expands approval of Blincyto for treatment of a type of leukemia in patients who have a certain risk factor for relapse

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted accelerated approval to Blincyto (blinatumomab) to treat adults and children with B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) who are in remission but still have minimal residual disease (MRD). MRD refers to the presence of cancer cells below a level that can be seen under the microscope. In patients who have achieved remission after initial treatment for this type of ALL, the presence of MRD means they have an increased risk of relapse.

“This is the first FDA-approved treatment for patients with MRD-positive ALL,” said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence and acting director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Because patients who have MRD are more likely to relapse, having a treatment option that eliminates even very low amounts of residual leukemia cells may help keep the cancer in remission longer. We look forward to furthering our understanding about the reduction in MRD after treatment with Blincyto. Studies are being conducted to assess how Blincyto affects long-term survival outcomes in patients with MRD.”

B-cell precursor ALL is a rapidly progressing type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many B-cell lymphocytes, an immature type of white blood cell. The National Cancer Institute estimates that approximately 5,960 people in the United States will be diagnosed with ALL this year and approximately 1,470 will die from the disease.

Blincyto works by attaching to CD19 protein on the leukemia cells and CD3 protein found on certain immune system cells. Bringing the immune cell close to the leukemia cell allows the immune cells to attack the leukemia cells better. The FDA first approved Blincyto under accelerated approval in December 2014 for the treatment of Philadelphia chromosome (Ph)-negative relapsed or refractory positive B-cell precursor ALL. Full approval for this indication was granted in July 2017, and at that time, the indication was also expanded to include patients with Philadelphia chromosome-positive ALL.

The side effects of Blincyto when used to treat MRD-positive B-cell precursor ALL are consistent with those seen in other uses of the drug. Common side effects include infections (bacterial and pathogen unspecified), fever (pyrexia), headache, infusion related reactions, low levels of certain blood cells (neutropenia, anemia), febrile neutropenia (neutropenia and fever) and low levels of platelets in the blood (thrombocytopenia).

The FDA granted the approval of Blincyto to Amgen Inc.

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