[Chronic lymphocytic leukemia : treatment concepts in transition]

Internist (Berl). 2015 Apr;56(4):374-80. doi: 10.1007/s00108-014-3593-8.
[Article in German]


Background: Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is the most common leukemia in the Western hemisphere and mainly affects elderly patients. No curative treatment is currently available for this disease.

Treatment: Advanced disease is treated according to the patients' fitness and comorbidity burden as well as according the presence of high risk genetic factors in CLL cells. The detection of del(17p) and/or TP53 gene mutations reflects a very unfavorable prognosis and refractoriness to chemotherapy (very high risk CLL). In physically fit patients without high comorbidity burden and without very high risk prognostic factors, chemoimmunotherapy containing fludarabine, cyclophosphamide, and the CD20 antibody rituximab (FCR) is standard therapy because this regimen has been shown to improve overall survival. In patients with significant comorbidity burden, a less intense chemoimmunotherapy regimen should be administered consisting of the alkylating agent chlorambucil plus CD20 antibody. In very high risk patients, kinase inhibitors blocking the signaling transduction pathway of the B cell receptor have been approved since 2014. The same substances are also approved in relapsed CLL. However, in relapsed CLL repetitive administration of chemoimmunotherapy is still an alternative treatment option, especially if the first remission was longer lasting (> 24 months). Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in very high risk CLL or early relapsed disease has become less important than in the past. In some patients considering the risk of the transplantation versus the risk of failing to respond to the new treatment option, this procedure might still be the treatment of choice in order to achieve long-lasting remissions.

Conclusion: In the choice of treatment for patients with CLL, several factors must be considered. Because of the broad spectrum of treatment options, therapy within a clinical study is still the best treatment option.

Publication types

  • English Abstract

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics*
  • Combined Modality Therapy / methods
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Genetic Testing / methods
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / diagnosis*
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / genetics
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / therapy*
  • Stem Cell Transplantation / methods*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Biomarkers, Tumor