Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is the most common leukaemia in adults in the UK with around 4,140 people being diagnosed every year.
CLL is a slow growing (chronic) blood cancer that affects white blood cells called lymphocytes, also known as B cells, which are found in bone marrow. Abnormal lymphoctyes build up in the bone marrow, and there isn’t room for enough normal blood cells to be made.
Researchers are still unsure about the exact cause of CLL, but it is thought that it is driven by a protein on the surface of B cells.
Treatment for CLL depends on how fast the disease develops. Some people develop CLL quickly and feel unwell so will need treatment, others may never need treatment because they have no symptoms. Those who have symptoms are usually given chemotherapy with a monoclonal antibody, such as rituximab, which target a protein called CD20 on CLL cells. Others may receive a biological treatment like ibrutinib - a Bruton’s Tyrosine Kinase inhibitor that stops signals that cancer cells use to divide and grow.
Our portfolio of research is aiming to find out how CLL starts and what drives the disease, so we can have a better understanding of how to stop this from happening. Although chemotherapy and monoclonal antibodies have provided great benefit to people with CLL, we need to find new drugs and new ways to treat those that stop responding, or relapse. And because CLL has such a varied course of disease, we want to develop tests that can predict the outcome of people, so doctors can tailor the course of treatment accordingly.