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.
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).
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.