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The CLL Bloodline: December 2023

In science and medicine, information is constantly changing and may become out-of-date as new data emerge.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


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 than 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 MDS (Myeloid Dysplastic Syndromes) 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: Join us on December 5th for our webinar Preventing COVID-19 and Other Respiratory Infections in CLL / SLL During Peak Winter Months with infectious disease specialist Dr. Veronica Dioverti.

Please complete the Support Group Member Survey. Your feedback helps us understand these groups’ value and highlights ways we can improve.

CLL Society will be reporting from ASH (American Society of Hematology) Annual Meeting this month on the latest CLL news and research.

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 antigens or proteins. 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 because they are cloned are 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 T-cell Engager or BITE

A BITE is a manmade antibody that simultaneously binds two different proteins (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 2023 draws to a close CLL Society is again asking for your help in supporting us in doing all we can to save the lives of CLL / SLL patients. This year, CLL Society’s website was helpful to someone for an amazing 5 millionth time. Our support groups and educational services continue to grow. Our ambitious outreach to underserved communities was launched. Our policy work influenced the FDA to keep more CLL drugs available, presented our special needs regarding the Inflation Reduction Act, and spoke to the CDC re: vaccines in CLL. We expanded our research grants and will have awarded $850,000 for CLL research by year’s end. We are the only charity that spends 100% of its research dollars looking to solve the unmet needs specific to CLL / SLL. Donations of cash, IRA charitable distributions, bequests, gifts from donor advised funds, stocks, vehicles, and more can be transformed into action to benefit our CLL community. 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. CLL Society is invested in your long life. Please invest in the long life of CLL Society.

If the CLL Society has helped you or a loved one, please consider making a donation.