What's New in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Research and Treatment?

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

Genetics of chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Scientists are making great progress in understanding how changes in a person's DNA can cause normal bone marrow cells to develop into leukemia cells. Learning about changes in the genes (regions of the DNA) that often occur in CLL is providing insight into why these cells grow too quickly, live too long, and fail to develop into normal blood cells. Doctors are also learning how to use these changes to help them determine a person's outlook and whether they will need treatment.

New drugs for chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Dozens of new drugs are being tested for use against CLL. Many of these drugs are targeted at specific parts of cancer cells, while others are more like standard chemotherapy drugs.

Oblimersen (Genasense®) is a drug that has been studied for use in CLL. In studies, giving this drug along with chemo was more likely than chemo alone to cause the CLL to go into remission and stay there.

A number of new monoclonal antibodies (man-made versions of immune system proteins) are now being studied for use in CLL treatment. Lumiliximab is an antibody used to try to prompt the immune system to attack leukemia cells.

Other antibodies are attached to substances that can poison cancer cells, and are known as immunotoxins. They act as homing devices to deliver the toxins directly to the cancer cells. An immunotoxin known as BL22 has shown a great deal of promise in treating hairy cell leukemia (HCL) in clinical trials. A newer version of this drug, known as HA22 (CAT-8015) is now being tested for use against CLL.

Lenalidomide (Revlimid) is a drug approved to treat multiple myeloma and a certain kind of lymphoma. In studies, it has also shows promise in the treatment of CLL.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: January 6, 2015 Last Revised: April 11, 2016

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