Oncologist-approved cancer information from the American Society of Clinical Oncology
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Leukemia - Chronic Lymphocytic - CLL

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 6/2013
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ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done now to learn more about CLL and how to treat it. To see other pages in this guide, use the colored boxes on the right side of your screen, or click “Next” at the bottom.

Doctors are working to learn more about CLL, ways to prevent it, how to best treat it, and how to provide the best care to people diagnosed with this disease. The following areas of research may include new options for patients through clinical trials. Most cancer centers are focused on clinical trials aimed at increasing the number of patients who have a CR. Always talk with your doctor about the diagnostic and treatment options best for you.

New drugs and drug combinations. Researchers are working to find new drugs for CLL. Different combinations of chemotherapy and targeted therapy are also being studied as a way to increase the likelihood that a patient will have a CR and live longer. There are many new drugs for CLL being evaluated in clinical trials for patients with recurrent CLL with the hope of testing some of these drugs as initial therapy in the near future. 

  • Ibrutinib is a drug called a kinase inhibitor that is given orally which targets Bruton’s tyrosine kinase, an important factor influencing the growth of B cells. Kinases are enzymes found in both normal cells and cancer cells. Some cancer cells can be destroyed by drugs that block this particular kinase enzyme. Researchers are also looking at combining this drug with bendamustine and ofatumumab.
  • Idelalisib is another kinase inhibitor. It targets the PI3 kinase and is also being studied in combination with bendamustine, rituximab, and ofatumumab.
  • Flavopiridol is a drug given intravenously that is being studied as a treatment for CLL when few standard treatments have helped control the disease.
  • Xm5574 is a monoclonal antibody also being researched for treatment of CLL.
  • Lenalidomide is drug commonly used to treat multiple myeloma that is also being looked at as a treatment for CLL, either by itself or in combination with several different drugs for patients with recurrent or refractory CLL, as well as for those who have not yet received treatment.
  • ABT199 is a drug that can destroy CLL cells by blocking an enzyme called BCL-2

Stem cell/bone marrow transplantation. Researchers are looking at decreasing the side effects of stem cell transplantation by using reduced intensity transplantation, which uses much lower doses of chemotherapy, making it possible for some older patients to receive stem cell transplantation. Also being studied in clinical trials are different approaches to ALLO transplantation for patients with CLL when chemotherapy is not working well.

Genetics. Genetic changes specific to CLL cells are also being evaluated to help predict how well treatment will work, determine the best treatment, and provide information about the cause of the disease. Examples include measuring the immunoglobulin mutations of the CLL cells, finding different chromosomal abnormalities in the CLL cells, and studying the effects of a protein called ZAP-70, which is found on the surface of the CLL cells. Some research suggests that these markers can predict the likelihood that the disease may worsen faster. However, there is often a large difference in how well treatment works for patients who seem to have the same genetic markers, and it is too early to use these tests to make decisions about when to begin treatment and the type of treatment to use.

Supportive care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current CLL treatments in order 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 CLL, explore these related items that take you outside of this guide:

To continue reading this guide, choose “Next” (below, right) to see a section about coping with the side effects of the disease or its treatment. Or, use the colored boxes located on the right side of your screen to visit any section.

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