Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)-Then and now

Am J Hematol. 2016 Mar;91(3):330-40. doi: 10.1002/ajh.24282.


The field of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) has witnessed considerable change since the time clinical staging was introduced in clinical practice in 1975. Over the years, the prognostication in CLL has expanded with the addition in late 90s of mutational status of variable region of immunoglobulin heavy chain (IGHV), and chromosomal analyses using fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH). More recently, stereotypy of BCR (B cell receptor) and whole exome sequencing (WES) based discovery of specific mutations such as NOTCH1, TP53, SF3B1, XPO-1, BIRC3, ATM, and RPS15 further refined the current prognostication system in CLL. In therapy, the field of CLL has seen major changes from oral chlorambucil and steroids prior to 1980s, to chemo-immunotherapy (CIT) with fludarabine, cyclophosphamide, rituximab (FCR) to the orally administered targeted therapeutic agents inhibiting kinases in the B cell receptor (BCR) signaling pathway such as Ibrutinib (BTK inhibitor) and Idelalisib (p110 PI3Kδ inhibitor) and novel anti-CD20 mAb's (monoclonal antibodies) such as obinutuzumab. This progress is continuing and other targeted therapeutics such as Bcl2 antagonists (Venetoclax or ABT-199) and finally chimeric antigen receptor against T cells (CART) are in the process of being developed. This review is an attempt to summarize the major benchmarks in the prognostication and in the therapy of CLL. The topic allocated to us by Dr Ayalew Tefferi and Dr Carlo Brugnara is very appropriate to reminisce what our understanding of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) was in 1976 and how rapidly have the advances occurring in this field affected the patients with CLL.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / drug therapy*
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / genetics
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / mortality
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / pathology
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy* / methods
  • Prognosis