Frequently Asked Questions:

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

How does the doctor determine my prognosis?

Over the past decade scientists have made substantial progress in understanding the specific types of genetic abnormalities associated with good and poor risk disease.  Typically, your physician will send your bone marrow for cytogenetic tests, which will identify the presence of any genetic, or more accurately, chromosomal abnormalities in your CLL.  These cytogenetic tests will evaluate all the chromosomes in your CLL cells, the information from which will be used to determine your prognosis.

Is this genetic and prognostic information used to determine which treatment might be right for me?

This of course is the goal of all cancer treatment: to tailor the treatment to the aggressiveness of the disease.  Unfortunately, while our goal; it is a process that often time takes years to figure out.  At present, there are many clinical trials being conducted around the world trying to determine the best treatment for different types of CLL.  While we have some insights, we are still far from an answer, and the pace at which the information is evolving is tremendous.  We would recommend you have a detailed conversation with your doctor about the state of this information, so you can make an informed decision about the best treatment for your disease.

Are there any new drugs being developed for CLL?

In fact, there are several exciting new drugs being developed for CLL, some of which seem like they may alter the natural history of the disease. One example are the BTK inhibitors, which target a very specific protein inside the CLL cells, impairing its ability to proliferate.  This drug, especially in combination with other active drugs, is extremely promising.  Other drugs include immunomodulatory drugs, which are often taken as a pill, which appear to stimulate your own immune system to fight the CLL.  The development of new drugs for this disease is one rich with many opportunities that will require a detailed conversation with your physician.