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Many studies of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) are being done in labs and in clinical trials around the world.

Genetics of CLL

Scientists are learning more about how changes in a person's DNA can cause normal bone marrow cells to turn into leukemia. They are also learning why these cancer cells grow too fast, live too long, and don't develop into normal blood cells. Doctors are looking at how to use these changes to help them predict a person's outlook and whether they will need treatment.

New treatment combinations

There are many different drugs now used to treat CLL. Doctors are trying to find out which combinations of these drugs work the best and offer the best chance for long-term survival with the fewest side effects.

The role of stem cell transplants in CLL is still not well-defined. Doctors aren't sure which type of transplant might work best, or which drugs should be used along with the transplant. Studies are now being done to try to answer these questions.

New drugs for CLL

Dozens of new drugs are being tested for use against CLL. Also, a number of new monoclonal antibodies (man-made versions of immune system proteins) are now being studied for use in CLL treatment. Some of these antibodies are used alone to try to prompt the immune system to attack leukemia cells. Other antibodies are attached to substances that can poison cancer cells.

Other drugs being studied are called targeted therapy drugs. These drugs work differently than standard chemotherapy drugs. They try to target specific changes inside cells that cause them to become cancerous. One of these drugs, ibrutinib (Imbruvica) was recently approved to treat patients with CLL.

Last Medical Review: 01/30/2015
Last Revised: 02/23/2016