Leukemia - B-cell Prolymphocytic Leukemia and Hairy Cell Leukemia: Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 03/2016

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done now to learn more about HCL and PLL and how to treat these types of leukemia. To see other pages, use the menu.

Doctors are working to learn more about HCL and PLL, ways to prevent these types of leukemia, how to best treat each disease, and how to provide the best care to people diagnosed with HCL or PLL. The following areas of research may include new options for patients through clinical trials. Always talk with your doctor about the diagnostic and treatment options best for you.

  • Targeted therapy. New treatments are being tested in clinical trials, including those that use angiogenesis inhibitors and monoclonal antibodies. Angiogenesis inhibitors are focused on stopping angiogenesis, which is the process of making new blood vessels. As discussed in the Treatment Options section, BL22 and LMB-2 are monoclonal antibodies linked to toxins that are designed to attach to the surface proteins of leukemia cells. Doctors are using these and other monoclonal antibodies in clinical trials for people with HCL when other treatments no longer work. In addition, drugs that target the BRAF gene are being studied for refractory HCL. In the future, finding out whether this gene is mutated also may help diagnose HCL.

    Ibrutinib (Imbruvica) is a new drug targeting an enzyme called Bruton’s tyrosine kinase, which helps B-cell leukemia. It is being studied for several B-cell disorders and clinical trials in PLL and HCL will be done as well.

    In addition, drugs that target B-cells are also being researched for CLL. This includes drugs that target PI3K, a protein that can help CLL grow, among others.

  • Immunotherapy. Researchers are looking at a new therapy called chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy or CAR T-cell therapy. This treatment uses the patient’s T-cells to attack the leukemia cells.

  • Palliative care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current treatments to improve patients’ comfort and quality of life.

Looking for More About the Latest Research?

If you would like additional information about the latest areas of research regarding leukemia, explore these related items that take you outside of this guide:

  • To find clinical trials specific to your diagnosis, talk with your doctor or search online clinical trial databases now.

  • Review research on CLL announced at the 2014 and 2015 ASCO Annual Meetings.

  • Visit the website of the Conquer Cancer Foundation to find out how to help support research for every cancer type. Please note this link takes you to a separate ASCO website. 

The next section in this guide is Coping with Treatment. It offers some guidance in how to cope with the physical, emotional, and social changes that leukemia and its treatment can bring. Or, use the menu to choose another section to continue reading this guide.