New Era in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL) Therapy

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Chronic_Lymphocytic_Leukemia_900x600For the first time Australia will host the international workshop on CLL (iwCLL), which marks the start of a “new era” in CLL therapy and will see world-renowned haematologists convene to discuss the prospect of a cure for the disease.

Seminal findings on new pathways involved in CLL disease progression and its underlying biology including the immunology of CLL will be a critical part of the meeting.

Professor Stephen Mulligan, Haematologist at Royal North Shore Hospital and Chair of the iwCLL said, “the last two years have witnessed enormous progress and change in CLL with emerging data from the novel B-cell receptor inhibitors and apoptosis induction agents, maintenance therapy trials, trials specifically for the typical elderly patient and the ongoing molecular revolution, that will change our knowledge of CLL biology and therapy globally.

The iwCLL will be the culmination of this data and is an exciting time for clinicians to be involved and engaged for an update on this progress.”

“We are now able to better identify high-risk, poorly responsive patients due to our rapidly expanding knowledge of the genetic and biological abnormalities which are at the core of this leukaemia. This population of patients is in need of new treatment approaches,” he said.

Professor Mulligan said the traditional pattern of disease treatment and response for CLL appears set to change. “Chemotherapy is being replaced by new small molecule drugs that work through critical pathways of the malignant B lymphocytes or CLL cells. The drugs result in dramatic reduction in the amount of CLL disease carried in lymph nodes, bone marrow and spleen. The blood is then also cleared of disease with restoration of normal blood counts.”

chemo iv drip_oncology news australia_crpdHe added, “Another key pathway is cell death, with researchers in Australia and internationally trialing a drug which directly initiates rapid cell death in CLL cells. Using novel agents, sometimes in combination with chemotherapy, we are now entertaining the possibility of curing this chronic leukaemia.”

Cost effective medicine is also on the conference agenda as a new era of drugs to treat CLL would come with a price tag. Patients, physicians, scientists and economists will debate this under the title: “The Funding Equation: Keeping pace with treatment advances and associated cost.”

Dr. Constantine Tam of Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne, explains, “Our message to governments is to help save the lives of patients with CLL, (1300 patients in Australia diagnosed with CLL each year), by recognising and keeping up with innovation.

“This new era in CLL is an exciting time both for patients and clinicians and totally changes the legacy and perception of the disease. The aim now is to cure this disease and the tools with which to do this are increasingly at our disposal,” Dr. Tam said.
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