Survival of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia before and after the introduction of chemoimmunotherapy in Germany

Blood Cancer J. 2021 Oct 29;11(10):174. doi: 10.1038/s41408-021-00556-7.


Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is the most common leukemia of adults in western countries. Therapy is indicated in symptomatic and advanced stages and has changed fundamentally since 2010 when rituximab, an anti-CD20 antibody, has been approved for treatment of CLL. Until then therapy had been based on chemotherapy drugs. This study investigates whether survival in CLL patients improved at the population level after the introduction of combined chemoimmunotherapy. Data from the cancer registry North-Rhine Westphalia was used to calculate relative survival (RS) by applying period analyses. Age-standardized 5-year RS increased from 79% in 1998-2002 (75% in 2003-2007) to 81% in the calendar period 2008-2012 and 88% in 2013-2016 for men and continuously from 71% in 1998-2002 to 92% in 2013-2016 for women. In CLL patients aged 15-69 years 5-year RS increased from 83% to 90% for men and from 82% to 94% for women after adding an anti-CD20-antibody to chemotherapy while in the older age group of 70-79-year-old CLL patients an increase by 20 percentage points was observed. These findings show marked improvements in the survival of CLL patients at the population level subsequently to the approval of anti-CD 20 antibodies like rituximab, ofatumumab or obinutuzumab for CLL treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / administration & dosage*
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell* / drug therapy
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell* / mortality
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Registries*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rituximab / administration & dosage*
  • Survival Rate


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Rituximab
  • ofatumumab
  • obinutuzumab