Outcome of advanced chronic lymphocytic leukemia following different first-line and relapse therapies: a meta-analysis of five prospective trials by the German CLL Study Group (GCLLSG)

Haematologica. 2015 Nov;100(11):1451-9. doi: 10.3324/haematol.2015.124693. Epub 2015 Aug 27.


To evaluate the effect of first-line and subsequent therapies, the outcome of 1,558 patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia from five prospective phase II/III trials conducted between 1999 and 2010 was analyzed. The 3-year overall survival rate was higher after first-line treatment with chemoimmunotherapies such as fludarabine/cyclophosphamide/rituximab (87.9%) or bendamustine/rituximab (90.7%) compared to chemotherapies without an antibody (fludarabine/cyclophosphamide: 84.6%; fludarabine: 77.5%; chlorambucil: 77.4%). Furthermore, the median overall survival was longer in patients receiving at least one antibody-containing regimen in any treatment line (94.4 months) compared to the survival in patients who never received an antibody (84.3 months, P<0.0001). Univariate Cox regression analysis demonstrated that patients who did receive antibody treatment had a 1.42-fold higher risk of death (hazard ratio, 1.42; 95% confidence interval: 1.185-1.694). Therapies administered at relapse were very heterogeneous. Only 55 of 368 patients (14.9%) who started second-line treatment >24 months after first-line therapy repeated the first-line regimen. Among 315 patients requiring treatment ≤24 months after first-line therapy, cyclophosphamide/doxorubicin/vincristine/prednisone with or without rituximab as well as alemtuzumab were the most commonly used therapies. In these early relapsing patients, the median overall survival was shorter following therapies containing an anthracycline and/or three or more cytotoxic agents (e.g. cyclophosphamide/doxorubicin/vincristine/prednisone or fludarabine/cyclophosphamide/mitoxantrone, 30.0 months) compared to single agent chemotherapy (e.g. fludarabine; 39.6 months) and standard chemoimmunotherapy (e.g. fludarabine/cyclophosphamide/rituximab: 61.6 months). In conclusion, the analysis confirms the superior efficacy of chemoimmunotherapies in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Moreover, the use of aggressive chemo(immuno)therapy combinations in patients with an early relapse does not offer any benefit when compared to less intensive therapies. Trial identifier: NCT00281918, ISRCTN75653261, ISRCTN36294212, NCT00274989 and NCT00147901.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / administration & dosage*
  • Clinical Trials, Phase II as Topic
  • Clinical Trials, Phase III as Topic
  • Cyclophosphamide / administration & dosage
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Doxorubicin / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / drug therapy*
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / mortality*
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / pathology
  • Male
  • Prednisolone / administration & dosage
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rituximab / administration & dosage
  • Vincristine / administration & dosage


  • Rituximab
  • Vincristine
  • Doxorubicin
  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Prednisolone