FDA Approves First Treatment Option for Chronic Graft Versus Host Disease

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has expanded the approval of Imbruvica (ibrutinib) to include adult patients with chronic graft versus host disease (cGVHD) after patients experienced failure of one or more treatments. This is the first therapy approved by the FDA for cGVHD, a condition estimated to occur in 30% to 70% of patients who receive hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.

Imbruvica is a kinase inhibitor that was previously approved for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia, and marginal zone lymphoma.

Bone Marrow Hormone May Improve Diabetes
Bone Marrow Disease Drug Restores Hair Growth in Alopecia

Approval for this new indication was based on single-arm trial that included 42 patients with cGVHD whose symptoms persisted despite treatment with corticosteroids. Overall, 67% of patients who received Imbruvica experienced symptom improvement, and 48% experienced improvements that lasted 5 months or longer.

Common adverse effects associated with Imbruvica included fatigue, bruising, diarrhea, thrombocytopenia, muscle spasms, stomatitis, nausea, hemorrhage, anemia, and pneumonia. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are not recommended to receive Imbruvica as the drug may harm developing fetuses or newborn babies.

In addition, serious adverse events included severe bleeding, infections, cytopenias, atrial fibrillation, hypertension, second primary malignancies, and metabolic abnormalities.

—Melissa Weiss


FDA approves treatment for chronic graft versus host disease [press release]. FDA. August 2, 2017. Accessed August 2, 2017.