New publication by Al-Sawaf, Eichhorst et al. in Nature Medicine

The phase 2 RT1 trial shows that deep and durable remissions can be achieved in patients with Richter transformation by combining checkpoint and BTK inhibitors.


In patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, Richter transformation (RT) reflects the development of an aggressive lymphoma that is associated with poor response to chemotherapy and short survival. We initiated an international, investigator-initiated, prospective, open-label phase 2 study in which patients with RT received a combination of the PD-1 inhibitor tislelizumab plus the BTK inhibitor zanubrutinib for 12 cycles. Patients responding to treatment underwent maintenance treatment with both agents. The primary end point was overall response rate after six cycles. Of 59 enrolled patients, 48 patients received at least two cycles of treatment and comprised the analysis population according to the study protocol. The median observation time was 13.9 months, the median age was 67 (range 45–82) years. Ten patients (20.8%) had received previous RT-directed therapy. In total, 28 out of 48 patients responded to induction therapy with an overall response rate of 58.3% (95% confidence interval (CI) 43.2–72.4), including 9 (18.8%) complete reponse and 19 (39.6%) partial response, meeting the study’s primary end point by rejecting the predefined null hypothesis of 40% (P = 0.008). Secondary end points included duration of response, progression-free survival and overall survival. The median duration of response was not reached, the median progression-free survival was 10.0 months (95% CI 3.8–16.3). Median overall survival was not reached with a 12-month overall survival rate of 74.7% (95% CI 58.4–91.0). The most common adverse events were infections (18.0%), gastrointestinal disorders (13.0%) and hematological toxicities (11.4%). These data suggest that combined checkpoint and BTK inhibition by tislelizumab plus zanubrutinib is an effective and well-tolerated treatment strategy for patients with RT. 


Al-Sawaf, O., (...) Eichhorst, B. Tislelizumab plus zanubrutinib for Richter transformation: the phase 2 RT1 trial. Nat Med 30, 240–248 (2024).