COVID-19 severity and mortality in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia: a joint study by ERIC, the European Research Initiative on CLL, and CLL Campus

Leukemia. 2020 Jul 9;1-10. doi: 10.1038/s41375-020-0959-x. Online ahead of print.


Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a disease of the elderly, characterized by immunodeficiency. Hence, patients with CLL might be considered more susceptible to severe complications from COVID-19. We undertook this retrospective international multicenter study to characterize the course of COVID-19 in patients with CLL and identify potential predictors of outcome. Of 190 patients with CLL and confirmed COVID-19 diagnosed between 28/03/2020 and 22/05/2020, 151 (79%) presented with severe COVID-19 (need of oxygen and/or intensive care admission). Severe COVID-19 was associated with more advanced age (≥65 years) (odds ratio 3.72 [95% CI 1.79-7.71]). Only 60 patients (39.7%) with severe COVID-19 were receiving or had recent (≤12 months) treatment for CLL at the time of COVID-19 versus 30/39 (76.9%) patients with mild disease. Hospitalization rate for severe COVID-19 was lower (p < 0.05) for patients on ibrutinib versus those on other regimens or off treatment. Of 151 patients with severe disease, 55 (36.4%) succumbed versus only 1/38 (2.6%) with mild disease; age and comorbidities did not impact on mortality. In CLL, (1) COVID-19 severity increases with age; (2) antileukemic treatment (particularly BTK inhibitors) appears to exert a protective effect; (3) age and comorbidities did not impact on mortality, alluding to a relevant role of CLL and immunodeficiency.