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Research into CLL

Researchers around the world are looking at the causes and treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL).

Go to Cancer Research UK’s clinical trials database if you are looking for a trial for CLL in the UK. You need to talk to your specialist if there are any trials that you think you might be able to take part in.

Research into the causes of CLL

Researchers want to understand more about the causes of CLL. They are looking at samples of blood, bone marrow and saliva from people with CLL. They are also asking them about their family history of CLL. 

The researchers want to identify genes that could increase the risk of CLL. They also want to understand more about changes to certain genes, proteins, and sugars. And how these changes could affect how CLL develops. This might help doctors develop new treatments for CLL in the future.

Research into treatment for CLL

Researchers are looking at:

  • how to improve current treatments
  • treatment for people who aren’t well enough to have standard treatment
  • new drugs

Improving current treatments

Researchers are always looking for ways to improve treatment.

Fludarabine, cyclophosphamide and rituximab (FCR) is a common treatment for CLL. This is a combination of chemotherapy and targeted cancer drugs. Researchers know that some other targeted cancer drugs work well for people with CLL. These include:

  • ibrutinib
  • venetoclax
  • acalabrutinib
  • obinutuzumab

Several studies are comparing different combinations of these treatments. The researchers want to find out which is the best first treatment for people with CLL.

Treatment options for less fit people

Some people aren't fit enough to have standard treatment, because of the side effects. Doctors are looking at other treatment options for less fit people. 

One trial is looking at a drug called ofatumumab with bendamustine or chlorambucil chemotherapy. 

New drugs

Doctors are looking at new cancer drugs to treat CLL. Most of this research is at an early stage. The researchers are looking at how much of the drug is safe to give (the dose).  And they are finding out more about the side effects.

New drugs in trials for CLL include:

  • BI 1206
  • duvelisib
  • JNJ-64264681
  • S65487
  • mosunetuzumab
  • pirtobrutinib (LOXO-305) 

Research into living with CLL

CLL can develop very slowly and you might not need treatment. But for some people, CLL can progress more quickly and you need treatment to control it. 

Researchers are looking for factors (markers) that might help them predict whose CLL is more likely to progress. And who might need treatment. This might help doctors identify people who would benefit from certain types of treatment. Or benefit from treatment at an earlier stage. And it might also help doctors reassure people whose CLL is unlikely to progress.

Researchers are also collecting information about what it is like living with CLL.