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December 2022 CLL Bloodline

In science and medicine, information is constantly changing and may become out-of-date as new data emerge.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.

Over the course of a year of monthly meetings, The CLL Bloodline will teach the BASICS needed to understand CLL, bring news, help with the acronym and new vocabulary, and offer simple, fun quizzes.


All the following are true about CLL/SLL except:

  1. All with CLL/SLL, even those off therapy or who’ve never been treated, are immunocompromised.
  2. Some CLL/SLL patients have lived more that 50 years with their cancer.
  3. Many CLL/SLL patients will never need treatments and will have a normal life expectancy.
  4. Nearly all who do need treatment for their CLL/SLL have a shortened life expectancy.
  5. As CLL/SLL patients are living longer, complications such as second cancers (including Richter’s Transformation) and infections are starting to cause more deaths than the CLL itself.

ANSWER: # 4 is no longer true. With today’s excellent targeted therapies, many CLL patients, including those who require treatment can expect to live a normal life span. All the other answers are correct.

NEWS: Evusheld has become increasingly ineffective as a pre-exposure prophylaxis due to the emerging dominance of the resistant variants of concern. It is likely to be withdrawn soon and we’ll need to go back to relying on well fitted N95 masks and all the precautions as we needed early in the pandemic. New prophylactic meds are in the works, but we don’t expect anything before the second half of 2023.

THE BASICS: Antibodies. This is the final and maybe most advanced “lesson” in our year of CLL education through the Bloodlines. We start all over at the beginning in January.

Antibodies are blood protein produced by the B lymphocytes in response to specific antigen or protein. Antibodies attach to surface proteins that our bodies recognize as foreign, such as bacteria and viruses in the blood. When we measure our immunoglobulins (IGA, IGG, IGM), we are measuring how many antibodies we have. Vaccines work largely by inducing antibody formation to the threat.

Manmade antibodies that are cloned are therefore called monoclonal antibodies. In CLL, they are engineered to attack surface markers such as CD20 found on all B cells including normal ones and cancerous CLL cells. Examples are rituximab and obinutuzumab (Gazyva). They also can be engineered to attack the COVID-19’s spike protein. Antibodies are one type of immunotherapy.

WORD/ACRONYM OF THE MONTH: Bispecific Antibodies: A bispecific antibody is a manmade protein that simultaneously binds two different protein (antigen), usually one that targets cancer cells and the other T cells, pulling them close together to facilitate killing of the cancer. They are experimental in CLL

CLOSING THOUGHTS: As 2022 draws to a close CLL Society is again asking for your help in supporting us in doing everything we possibly can to save the lives of CLL/SLL patients. The resources provided by individuals like you made it possible for us to pivot when COVID-19 struck with new virtual support groups and online education. This year, CLL Society led the effort that resulted in the NIH, FDA and CDC all changing the definition of who was immunocompromised to specifically include CLL/SLL patients regardless of treatment status. We were therefore qualified for life saving prophylaxis and therapies for COVID-19. This was huge win that saved lives and will continue to have a positive impact in the future.

In 2022 we gave out our first research grant. We are the only charity that spends 100% of its research dollars on basic and translational research looking to solve the unmet needs in CLL/SLL. This year we are funding research on Richter’s Transformation.

Donations of cash, IRA charitable distributions, gifts from donor advised funds, stocks, vehicles, and more can be transformed into action to benefit our CLL community. CLL Society is invested in your long life. Please invest in the long life of CLL Society. You can learn more about ways to donate and give safely on the CLL Society website. Thanks to all who have already given and those considering a donation before year’s end! Blessings for the holiday. Wishing everyone a happy and healthy new year.

The CLL Society is invested in your long life. Please invest in the long life of the CLL Society.