Who usually gets CLL?

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a disease of old or middle age in which there is an abnormal increase in lymphocytes. The course ofCLL varies a great deal from person to person. Generally, however, the disease begins slowly and progresses to an aggressive stage after a period of years. Scientists disagree on the best treatment for the early stage of CLL. Current thinking favors monitoring the patient and delaying anticancer treatment until symptoms, such as anemia or lymph node enlargement, appear.

Most patients respond well to moderate doses of chemotherapy. Radiation therapy also produces remission in a large number of patients. Initially CLL responds well to treatment. In its later stages, however, leukemic cells develop resistance to therapy and most patients relapse. Various studies are under way, using experimental chemotherapies both as single or combination drugs, to overcome such drug resistance.

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