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J Clin Oncol. 2014 Sep 20;32(27):3039-47.

Entering the era of targeted therapy for chronic lymphocytic leukemia: impact on the practicing clinician.



Chemoimmunotherapy has been the standard of care for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). However, the introduction of B-cell receptor (BCR) kinase inhibitors such as ibrutinib has the potential to eliminate the role of chemotherapy in the treatment of CLL. How to best incorporate old and new therapies for CLL in this landscape is increasingly complex.


This article reviews current data available to clinicians and integrates these data to provide a strategy that can be used to approach the treatment of CLL in the era of BCR signaling inhibitors.


Current strategies separate patients based on age or functional status as well as genetics [presence or absence of del(17)(p13.1)]. In the era of targeted therapy, this will likely continue based on current available data. Phase III studies support chemoimmunotherapy as the initial standard therapy for patients without del(17)(p13.1). Choice of chemotherapy (fludarabine plus cyclophosphamide, bendamustine, or chlorambucil) and anti-CD20 antibody (rituximab, ofatumumab, or obinutuzumab) varies based on regimen and patient status. For patients with del(17)(p13.1), no standard initial therapy exists, although several options supported by phase II clinical trials (methylprednisolone plus alemtuzumab or ibrutinib) seem better than chemoimmunotherapy. Treatment of relapsed CLL seems to be best supported by ibrutinib-based therapy. Completion of trials with ibrutinib and other new agents in the near future will offer opportunity for chemotherapy-free treatment across all groups of CLL.


Therapy for CLL has evolved significantly over the past decade with introduction of targeted therapy for CLL. This has the potential to completely transform how CLL is treated in the future.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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