Leukemia (CLL)

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Initial Treatment Options for CLL Depend on Age

Dr. Matthew Davids Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

CLL cannot be cured but there are several options when it comes to the initial treatment. According to Dr. Matthew Davids, the Associate Director of the Center for CLL at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the standard treatment route will be some form of chemo-immunotherapy. Typically, a chemo-immunotherapy regimen is given as initial therapy for six months at a time. Any treatment lasting longer than six months is difficult to tolerate.

Dr. Davids says for patients under age 65, the go-to chemo-immunotherapy regimen is usually FCR–a combination of Fludarabine, Cyclophosphamide and Rituximab. Almost all patients will go into remission after this treatment, and about 50 percent of those patients will go into complete remission. Since this treatment route is an aggressive one, and isn’t well tolerated in older patients, doctors typically will not recommend it for patients over age 65.

For older patients, doctors may use a different chemo-immunotherapy treatment called BR, says Dr. Davids, which is often a combination of Bendamustine and Rituximab. For patients who may even be older or too frail for BR, another treatment option is combining the oral chemo drug chlorambucil with the CD20 antibody obinutuzumab.

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Dr. Matthew Davids is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and the Associate Director of the Dana-Farber CLL Center. Read More

Diagnosing and Treating CLL

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is the most common leukemia in adults. It starts in the bone marrow with lymphocyte cells before moving into the blood. Learn more here:


Treatment: Oral Medications

For patients diagnosed with CLL, the go-to treatment option is usually some form of chemo-immunotherapy. But this is not an option for all patients.


Oral Medicine for Relapsed CLL: Venetoclax


Oral Medicine for CLL: Ibrutinib


Oral Medicine for Relapsed CLL

Dr. Matthew Davids
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute