How we manage ibrutinib intolerance and complications in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Deborah M. Stephens and John C. Byrd


Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) therapy has changed dramatically with the introduction of several targeted therapeutics. Ibrutinib was the first approved for use in 2014 and now is used for initial and salvage therapy of CLL patients. With its widespread use in clinical practice, ibrutinib's common and uncommon adverse events reported less frequently in earlier clinical trials have been experienced more frequently in real-world practice. In particular, atrial fibrillation, bleeding, infections, and arthralgias have been reported. The management of ibrutinib's adverse events often cannot be generalized, but must be individualized to the patient and their long-term risk of additional complications. When ibrutinib was initially developed, there were limited therapeutic alternatives for CLL, which often resulted in treating through the adverse events. At the present time, there are several effective alternative agents available, so transition to an alternative CLL directed therapy may be considered. Given the continued expansion of ibrutinib across many therapeutic areas, investigation of the pathogenesis of adverse events with this agent and also clinical trials examining therapeutic approaches for complications arising on therapy are needed. Herein, we provide strategies we use in real-world CLL clinical practice to address common adverse events associated with ibrutinib.

  • Submitted November 27, 2018.
  • Accepted January 7, 2019.