Jim Bicak, 61, of Chicago, is a very active guy—hiking, skiing and camping are among his favorite pastimes. So when he began feeling feverish and tired all the time, he knew something wasn’t right.
His local hematologist diagnosed him with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in 2004. Testing showed his cancer was slow growing and may not require immediate treatment. The doctors suggested a watch-and-wait approach, with regular monitoring via bloodwork and imaging. For nearly a decade, Jim says, the disease had no effect on his daily life as a busy architect and father of three.
But in 2014, Jim began experiencing chronic low energy, and his anemia required treatment. His local oncologist sent him to consult with John C. Byrd, MD, at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James). Jim learned that he qualified for a clinical trial that was testing a new once-a-day targeted oral therapy drug called acalabrutinib.
Acalabrutinib is a second-generation Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitor, a newer class of drugs shown to improve the survival of patients with CLL and mantle cell lymphoma. All preclinical research and the first phase I study of the drug were completed by a team of researchers led by Byrd at the OSUCCC – James.
Jim says that within six months he felt significantly better. The best part was that he had virtually no side effects from treatment. Within a year, he was back on a normal routine of skiing, backpacking and the other outdoor adventures he enjoys so much, including a seven-day backpacking trip to Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, where he spent a week hiking over 50 miles as an adult Boy Scout leader.