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How Common is CLL?
Posted: Apr 30, 2023
How Common is CLL? image

Dr. Lydia Scarfò with the Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Milano, Italy stated that chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is the most common type of adult leukemia (blood cancer) in the western countries.

Watch her full interview below: 

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a type of cancer that affects an immune system cell (white blood cell) called a B lymphocyte. B-cells are in charge of recognizing and stopping viruses, bad bacteria, and other pathogens in the body’s fluids like the blood before they enter any body cells using antibodies.

CLL cells may be found in the bone marrow, blood, or lymph system. 

CLL cells are ineffective B-cells because they have a portion of their DNA instructions altered from possibly either excess oxidative stress, a virus (and the body's immune system was too weak to destroy the CLL cell allowing it to replicate), or the damaged DNA was inherited. The DNA alteration causes the B-cell to not be effective at recognizing pathogens and the instructions that tell the cell to die are changed so the cancerous cell keeps multiplying, crowding out other types of blood cells. A patient’s CLL comes from one CLL cell that multiplied into many clones. Typically this process happens slowly for CLL patients allowing patients time to identify the best treatment course for them.  

There are several effective non-chemo targeted therapies for the treatment of CLL that help reduce the cancer cells leading to long periods of remission. More CLL treatments are continuing to be developed in clinical trials such as CAR T-cell therapy which enhances the patient's cancer-killing T-cells to destroy CLL cells. For some CLL patients, CAR T-cell therapy has cured their cancer. Read more about CAR T here and options to join recruiting clinical trials here (it's currently FDA approved for several other types of blood cancers and is in the process of getting approved for CLL). 

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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