Biology and treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Michael J. Keating, Nicholas Chiorazzi, Bradley Messmer, Rajendra N. Damle, Steven L. Allen, Kanti R. Rai, Manlio Ferrarini, Thomas J. Kipps

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Major advances have occurred in our understanding of the biology, immunology, and opportunities for treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in recent times. Surface antigen analysis has helped us define classical CLL and differentiate it from variants such as marginal zone leukemia, mantle cell leukemia, and prolymphocytic leukemia. An important observation has been that the B-cells in indolent types of CLL, which do not require therapy, have undergone somatic hypermutation and function as memory B-lymphocytes whereas those more likely to progress have not undergone this process. Section I by Dr. Nicholas Chiorazzi encompasses emerging elements of the new biology of CLL and will address the types of somatic hypermutation that occur in CLL cells and their correlation with other parameters such as telomere length and ZAP70 status. In addition he addresses the concept of which cells are proliferating in CLL and how we can quantitate the proliferative thrust using novel methods. The interaction between these parameters is also explored. Section II by Dr. Thomas Kipps focuses on immune biology and immunotherapy of CLL and discusses new animal models in CLL, which can be exploited to increase understanding of the disease and create new opportunities for testing the interaction of the CLL cells with a variety of elements of the immune system. It is obvious that immunotherapy is emerging as a major therapeutic modality in chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Dr. Kipps addresses the present understanding of the immune status of CLL and the role of passive immunotherapy with monoclonal antibodies such as rituximab, alemtuzumab, and emerging new antibodies. In addition the interaction between the CLL cells and the immune system, which has been exploited in gene therapy with transfection of CLL cells by CD40 ligand, is discussed. In Section III, Dr. Michael Keating examines the question "Do we have the tools to cure CLL?" and focuses on the fact that we now have three distinct modalities, which are able to achieve high quality remissions with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) negativity for the immunoglobulin heavy chain in CLL. These modalities include initial chemoimmunotherapy with fludarabine, cyclophosphamide, and rituximab, the use of alemtuzumab for marrow cytoreduction in minimal residual disease and allogeneic bone marrow transplants. The emergence of non-ablative marrow transplants in CLL has led to the broadening of the range of opportunities to treat older patients. The addition of rituximab to the chemotherapy preparative regimens appears to be a significant advance. The combination of our increased understanding of the biology, immune status, and therapy of CLL provides for the first time the opportunity for curative strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-175
Number of pages23
JournalHematology / the Education Program of the American Society of Hematology. American Society of Hematology. Education Program
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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