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Eur J Cancer Care (Engl). 2004 Jul;13(3):279-87.

The clinical and epidemiological burden of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

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Global Outcomes Research-Oncology, Pharmacia Corporation, Milan, Italy.


The purpose of this literature review was to identify and summarize published studies describing the epidemiology and management of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL). Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia represents 22-30% of all leukaemia cases with a worldwide incidence projected to be between < 1 and 5.5 per 100,000 people. Australia, the USA, Ireland and Italy have the highest CLL incidence rates. Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia presents in adults, at higher rates in males than in females and in whites than in blacks. Median age at diagnosis is 64-70 years. Five-year survival rate in the USA is 83% for those < 65 years old and 68% for those 65 + years old. Hereditary and genetic links have been noted. Persons with close relatives who have CLL have an increased risk of developing it themselves. No single environmental risk factor has been found to be predictive for CLL. Patients are usually diagnosed at routine health care visits because of elevated lymphocyte counts. The most common presenting symptom of CLL is lymphadenopathy, while difficulty exercising and fatigue are common complaints. Most patients do not receive treatment after initial diagnosis unless presenting with clear pathologic conditions. Pharmacological therapy may consist of monotherapy or combination therapy involving glucocorticoids, alkylating agents, and purine analogs. Fludarabine may be the most effective single drug treatment currently available. Combination therapy protocols have not been shown to be more effective than fludarabine alone. As no cure is yet available, a strong unmet medical need exists for innovative new therapies. Experimental treatments under development include allogeneic stem cell transplant, mini-allogeneic transplants, and monoclonal antibodies (e.g. alemtuzumab against CD52; rituximab against CD20).

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