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What is the Condition Before CLL?
Posted: Aug 03, 2023
What is the Condition Before CLL? image

What Condition Comes Before CLL? 

The condition that comes before chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is called monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis (MBL). The type of cancer cell is the same, the difference between the two is based on the number of cancer cells per microliter of blood. 

In MBL, the number of cancerous B-cells cells is below 5,000 cells per microliter of blood (5,000/uL). Once the number goes over 5,000 cancer cells per microliter of blood, the condition is labeled as CLL. MBL patients have a 1% chance of their MBL progressing into CLL each year. 

The Power of the Immune System

Whether the number of cancer cells increase or decrease depends on how well your immune system kills cancer cells. Your body produces cancer-killing immune system cells called T-cells and natural killer (NK) cells.

One of the reasons these immune system cells may not work well to kill off cancer cells like CLL thus allowing the cancer to multiply, is because the T and NK-cells can become exhausted from high amounts of oxidative stress. If there is too much oxidative stress, the T and NK cell's mitochondria don't work as well as they should, causing them to stop killing cancer cells.

Decreasing excess oxidative stress with antioxidants has proven to allow the cancer-killing immune system cells to work well and last to continue killing cancer cells. There may be other factors that contribute to why patients' immune systems aren't killing cancer cells. Further research is being conducted to identify these areas. 

Precursor Condition to CLL Interview

Drs. Alvaro Alencar and Ravi Vij share more about the precursor condition of CLL. Watch their interview below. 


The condition before CLL is monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis (MBL). If the number of cancer cells are less than 5,000 per microliter of blood, it is MBL. If it is over 5,000 per microliter of blood, it is CLL. Visit our CLL 101 pages here for more information related to areas like tests patients can expect to find cancer cells, when a patient qualifies to start treatment, and the types of non-chemo CLL treatments patients can expect. 

The author Megan Heaps

about the author
Megan Heaps

Megan joined HealthTree in 2022. As a writer and the daughter of a blood cancer patient, she is dedicated to helping patients and their caregivers understand the various aspects of their disease. This understanding enables them to better advocate for themselves and improve their treatment outcomes. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family. 

Thanks to our HealthTree Community for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Sponsors:


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