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ASCO 2021 Top Pick #10: Survival Trends in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) in the Era of Oral Targeted Therapies in the United States: SEER Database Analyses (from 1985 to 2017)

In science and medicine, information is constantly changing and may become out-of-date as new data emerge. All articles and interviews are informational only, should never be considered medical advice, and should never be acted on without review with your health care team.

In this paper presented at ASCO 2021 by Alrawashdh et al, we learn about historical survival trends for CLL patients over the 22 years between 1985 and 2017.

The study used SEER’s data. The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database provides information on cancer statistics to help reduce the cancer burden among the U.S. population. SEER is part of the NCI (National Cancer Institute), which is one of the institutions making up the NIH (National Institutes of Health).

The survival of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients has progressively improved after the approval of new targeted therapy for first-line treatment and relapsed disease.

For males, the 5-year age-adjusted relative survival rate improved progressively from 72.0% (dx 1985- 1989) to 88.2% (dx 2010-2014); for females, from 76.8% (dx 1985-1989) to 90.8% (dx 2010-2014). The corresponding 10-year age-adjusted relative survival rates were 47.3% (dx 1985-1989) and 72.5% (dx 2005-2009) for males; and 58.2% (dx 1985-1989) and 78.7% (dx 2005-2009) for females.

Females and younger patients had a higher probability of long-term survival.


I don’t understand some of the conclusions and inferences, especially those related to cures, but we can look at the data for ourselves and make some broad, but important conclusions.

With improved treatments, CLL patients diagnosed most recently tend to live longer. This is why CLL Society urges all chronic lymphocytic patients to largely ignore old survival data; it is all looking backward and too often does not include the avalanche of new treatments that started with the first novel targeted therapy, ibrutinib, approved in 2014.

With all the new targeted therapies and new combinations in development, the trend to longer survival should continue long into the future.

The link to the ASCO abstract can be found here.

Please enjoy my video:

Stay strong. We are all in this together.

Brian Koffman MDCM (retired) MS Ed
Co-Founder, Executive VP, and Chief Medical Officer
CLL Society, Inc.