Interview with Meghan Thompson, MD, and Lydia Scarfò, MD, to talk about if there is a cure for CLL and what is the life expectancy for a patient with CLL.
Is there a cure for CLL?
CLL is a slow-progressing long-term disease. As of 2022, there is not yet a cure. However, CLL can often be effectively managed to help maintain the patient’s quality and length of life thanks to advances in therapy over the last few years. Patients who do require treatment can often take non-chemo targeted therapy pills over the course of several years to manage their CLL. Chemotherapy is rarely used for CLL.
Treatment plans need to be individualized for each CLL patient due to the variations that exist within the disease. Some patients may never need treatment and others may require treatment at the time of diagnosis. Some patients’ CLL may relapse despite treatments.
Does CLL impact life expectancy?
“It really varies by patient. With many, it is a disease of older patients and they end up dying with the disease rather them from the disease with other medical conditions” (Meghan Thompson, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center).
“This is a chronic disorder. In most cases, we can follow the patients over time without requiring treatment administration and we have made huge progress in the management of the disease within the last few years. Even if the disease progresses and requires treatment, life expectancy is greatly improved. We are working to provide the patient with the same life expectancy and quality of life as the age-matched population. Of course, we cannot guarantee immortality but the goal is to give them the same life expectancy as people without this diagnosis" (Lydia Scarfò, MD, Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Milano, Italy).
The Immune System, Vaccinations, and Secondary Cancer Screenings
CLL is a cancer of the immune system. Because of this, patients with CLL have a weakened immune system (immunocompromised). Whether a patient does or does not require treatment, they need to be vigilant about vaccinations. Live vaccinations are not recommended for patients with CLL. Other vaccinations, however, like the Covid vaccine series are recommended.
Where CLL is a cancer of the immune system, patients have an increased risk for other secondary cancers. Meghan Thompson, MD, encourages patients to visit a dermatologist once a year to check for skin cancer and stay up to date on colonoscopies, mammograms, pap smears, and all other age-appropriate cancer screenings.
about the author
Megan joined HealthTree as a Community Coordinator for CLL in 2022. She is the daughter of a blood cancer patient and has found a passion for helping support patients and caregivers to advance research for their cure and improve their quality of life. In her spare time, she loves to be around family, sew, and cook.