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Research


Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Overview

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is the most common form of leukemia in the Western Hemisphere and accounts for nearly 30% of all reported leukemias. About 14,990 new cases of CLL will be diagnosed in 2010. It is estimated that 100,760 people in the United States are living with or are in remission from CLL. It is presently incurable. CLL is a blood and bone marrow disease that usually gets worse slowly. CLL occurs when the bone marrow makes too many abnormal white blood cells, or lymphocytes, that never become healthy, infection fighting cells. As the number of these abnormal lymphocytes increases, they interfere with the production of other important blood cells, leading to multiple complications, including infection, easy bleeding and swollen lymph nodes. More than half of people diagnosed with CLL are older than 70, and cases rarely occur in individuals younger than 40.

The treatments of CLL in the past were based on disease control that achieved a chronic indolent disease. In the past decade, aggressive research in the molecular and cellular pathogenesis of CLL has generated a variety of new therapeutic approaches, many of which have led to viable treatment options for patients with leukemias and lymphomas. These recent advances can be credited not only to significant improvements in our understanding of tumor cell biology, but also to high-throughput screening and medicinal chemistry strategies to identify and produce diverse new agents for preclinical investigation. Additionally, enormous effort has been put into defining patient subsets within each disease using genetic or cell-surface markers and studying how these different subsets respond to treatment. While this approach is intended to “personalize” medicine and provide the most effective treatment for each patient, it also has the significant benefit of enhancing our understanding of the underlying biology of cancer. Each molecular characteristic of aggressive disease that is identified and validated can expose a new therapeutic target for investigation and intervention. In the CLL Experimental Therapuetics lab, we are aggressively investigating molecular and cellular mechanisms of pathogenesis and translating our findings into treatments that are aimed at achieving long-term remissions and eventually a cure. Over the past 10 years, over 30 compounds have been developed or tested in our laboratory and have led to countless clinical trials in chronic lymphocytic leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, as well as solid tumors.  Our lab has several areas of focus: 

             

Normal peripheral blood smear CLL peripheral  blood smear

 

Peripheral blood smears were created from a representative CLL patient and a normal volunteer. Slides were prepared using the Wright-Giemsa stain and are displayed at 40X. Photos were taken by Gerard Lozanski, M.D. at The Ohio State University.