Treatment of primary plasma cell leukaemia with carfilzomib and lenalidomide-based therapy (EMN12/HOVON-129): final analysis of a non-randomised, multicentre, phase 2 study

Background: Primary plasma cell leukaemia is a rare and aggressive plasma cell disorder with a poor prognosis. The aim of the EMN12/HOVON-129 study was to improve the outcomes of patients with primary plasma cell leukaemia by incorporating carfilzomib and lenalidomide in induction, consolidation, and maintenance therapy.

Methods: The EMN12/HOVON-129 study is a non-randomised, phase 2, multicentre study conducted at 19 academic centres and hospitals in seven European countries (Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy, Norway, The Netherlands, and the UK) for previously untreated patients with primary plasma cell leukaemia aged 18 years or older. Inclusion criteria were newly diagnosed primary plasma cell leukaemia (defined as >2 ×109 cells per L circulating monoclonal plasma cells or plasmacytosis >20% of the differential white cell count) and WHO performance status 0–3. Patients aged 18–65 years (younger patients) and 66 years or older (older patients) were treated in age-specific cohorts and were analysed separately. Younger patients were treated with four 28-day cycles of carfilzomib (36 mg/m2 intravenously on days 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, and 16), lenalidomide (25 mg orally on days 1–21), and dexamethasone (20 mg orally on days 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, and 23). Carfilzomib–lenalidomide–dexamethasone (KRd) induction was followed by double autologous haematopoietic stem-cell transplantation (HSCT), four cycles of KRd consolidation, and then maintenance with carfilzomib (27 mg/m2 intravenously on days 1, 2, 15, and 16 for the first 12 28-day cycles, and then 56 mg/m2 on days 1 and 15 in all subsequent cycles) and lenalidomide (10 mg orally on days 1–21) until progression. Patients who were eligible for allogeneic HSCT, could also receive a single autologous HSCT followed by reduced-intensity conditioning allogeneic HSCT and then carfilzomib–lenalidomide maintenance. Older patients received eight cycles of KRd induction followed by maintenance therapy with carfilzomib and lenalidomide until progression. The primary endpoint was progression-free survival. The primary analysis population was the intention-to-treat population, irrespective of the actual treatment received. Data from all participants who received any study drug were included in the safety analyses. The trial was registered at www.trialregister.nl (until June 2022) and https://trialsearch.who.int/ as NTR5350; recruitment is complete and this is the final analysis.

Findings: Between Oct 23, 2015, and Aug 5, 2021, 61 patients were enrolled and received KRd induction treatment (36 patients aged 18–65 years [20 (56%) were male and 16 (44%) female], and 25 aged ≥66 years [12 (48%) were male and 13 (52%) female]). With a median follow-up of 43·5 months (IQR 27·7–67·8), the median progression-free survival was 15·5 months (95% CI 9·4–38·4) for younger patients. For older patients, median follow-up was 32·0 months (IQR 24·7–34·6), and median progression-free survival was 13·8 months (95% CI 9·2–35·5). Adverse events were most frequently observed directly after treatment initiation, with infections (two of 36 (6%) younger patients and eight of 25 (32%) older patients) and respiratory events (two of 36 [6%] younger patients and four of 25 [16%] older patients) being the most common grade 3 or greater events during the first four KRd cycles. Treatment-related serious adverse events were reported in 26 (72%) of 36 younger patients and in 19 (76%) of 25 older patients, with infections being the most common. Treatment-related deaths were reported in none of the younger patients and three (12%) of the older patients (two infections and one unknown cause of death).

Interpretation: Carfilzomib and lenalidomide-based therapy provides improved progression-free survival compared with previously published data. However, results remain inferior in primary plasma cell leukaemia compared with multiple myeloma, highlighting the need for new studies incorporating novel immunotherapies.

Funding: Dutch Cancer Society, Celgene (a BMS company), and AMGEN.

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