The 16th meeting of the International Workshop on Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (iwCLL) and the associated Young Investigators Meeting were held in Sydney Australia, between the 6th and 9th September, 2015.
This is the first time this prestigious iwCLL conference has been held outside Europe or the USA. This workshop brought together over 600 delegates from all parts the world including Australia, Asia, Latin America, Europe and USA/Canada and is credited as being an outstanding success.
The iwCLL meeting represents the premier international forum for clinical trials, novel therapies and research on this most common leukaemia. The list of presenters and attendees included the leading international figures in all aspects of CLL biology and management.
The meeting commenced with sessions on B-CLL cell biology and novel B-cell receptor (BCR) pathway-targeted therapies. Keynote addresses were given by Max Cooper, discoverer of the B cell, Freda Stevenson (instrumental in the understanding of the B cell receptor biology) and Chris Goodnow, Professor in immunogenomics at the Garvan Institute, Sydney. The themes of the invited oral presentations included BCR pathway-targeted therapies, flow cytometry and the CLL microenvironment.
Sponsored symposia outlined the recent progress in therapy of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia with the development of highly effective oral targeted therapies for patients with relapsed CLL. B-cell receptor signalling inhibitors including ibrutinib and idelalisib and new anti CD20 monoclonal antibodies including obinutuzimab and ofatumumab are leading to significant improvements in survival for both younger and older patients with CLL. Promising clinical trial data was also presented for venetoclax, a novel agent triggering leukaemia cell death associated with impressive clinical responses. A Celgene-sponsored symposium explored the role of interfering with the tumour microenvironment to improve durability of response in CLL. A highlight symposium hosted by Tony Jones [ABC Q&A program] explored the current global economic challenges facing the funding of novel therapies and drug development.
There were more than 200 abstracts of very high quality with 47 oral presentations and many posters highlighting the updates in the hot topics in CLL. This included new insights into biology of B-lymphocyte receptor and signalling pathways, genomics/proteomics identifying new leukaemia genes and potential therapeutic targets, current management of CLL, improving and harmonising our methods of prognostication and detection of minimal residual disease, emerging novel therapy and its affordability, complications of CLL/therapy and quality of life.
Original presentations throughout the meeting outlined discoveries in many aspects of CLL biology and treatment. The importance of the immune system is increasingly recognized as a target to achieve cure in CLL and a number of presentations demonstrated new avenues for manipulating the immune system in CLL as well as its protective environment thereby attempting to eradicate this disease. As well as promising new-targeted drugs, established therapies were discussed as to how we may optimise treatment of patients with CLL by addressing side-effects of treatment and developing personalized therapeutic strategies for individual patients.
The international workshop on Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia in Sydney gathered together the world leaders in the research and clinical management of CLL. The meeting demonstrated the significant advances which have occurred not only in the scientific understanding of this disease but in the practical ways in which treatments have improved the lives of patients with this disease.
The consensus opinion from the world’s experts was that cure is now a realistic goal for a disease once believed incurable.
Conference Report by iwCLL committee members Bryone Kuss, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia, Devinder Gill, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane, Australia and Giles Best, Royal North Shore Hospital, Kolling Institute of Medical Research, Sydney, Australia.