Venetoclax in addition to ibrutinib is being developed for the treatment of patients with relapsed mantle cell lymphoma (MCL). MCL is a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that usually behaves like a fast-growing lymphoma. It develops when B-cells, white blood cells that fight infection, become abnormal. The abnormal B-cells usually build up in lymph nodes, but they can affect other parts of the body. MCL often responds well to frontline chemotherapy but the responses are not durable and often of relatively short duration. Once MCL has entered the relapsed/refractory stage, it becomes more difficult to treat and patients deteriorate at an increasing pace.
Venetoclax is expected to work by blocking proteins called BCL-2. These proteins prevent the natural process that leads to cell death (apoptosis). BCL-2 proteins can be found in high levels in cancer cells. By blocking the action of these proteins, the medicine is expected to make cancer cells more responsive to the natural process that causes their death, and this can slow down the growth of the cancer. When combined with ibrutinib, which blocks the action of an enzyme known as Bruton’s tyrosine Kinase (BTK), the effect is synergistic. If licensed, venetoclax in combination with ibrutinib taken orally will offer additional second-line and beyond treatment options for adults with relapsed MCL.