Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

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Important
It is possible that the main title of the report Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia is not the name you expected.

Disorder Subdivisions

  • None

General Discussion

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a malignant blood disorder in which there are an increased number of white blood cells in the lymphoid tissue. In CLL, the abnormal lymphocytes, also called leukemic cells, are produced instead of healthy white blood cells, and then accumulate over time. As the number of unhealthy blood cells grows, there is less room for healthy cells. The combination of fewer healthy cells and the fact that the CLL lymphocytes are poor at fighting infections can lead to frequent infection, anemia, and easy bleeding. This disease progresses slowly, and the uncontrolled buildup and enlargement of lymphoid tissue can occur in various sites of the body such as the lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow, and lungs. CLL is the most common type of leukemia in adults and very rarely occurs in children. In the majority of individuals, chronic lymphocytic leukemia is the result of a rapid production of B lymphocyte cells (a type of white blood cell that is responsible for the production of antibodies to help fight infection). What was previously called CLL derived from T lymphocytes has been renamed as another disorder, T cell prolymphocytic leukemia. The overgrowth of cells in this T-cell disease tends to be much faster. The ability to distinguish between cells that have unmutated IgVH (Ig-unmutated CLL) and mutated IgVH (Ig-mutated CLL) has become very important in predicting the course of the disease (prognosis). Patients who have Ig-unmutated CLL have a much shorter time to treatment and historically a shorter average survival period compared to Ig-mutated CLL patients, whose average survival period exceeded 25 years even before the advent of modern therapy. These survival times however are based on much older data and are certainly longer now, with improved therapies. The other major determinant of prognosis is the chromosome makeup of the CLL, with particular concern about two higher risk chromosome abnormalities, loss of the short arm of chromosome 17 or the long arm of chromosome 11Determining the subset of CLL based on IGVH status is important because it is very predictive of prognosis. Because CLL usually progresses so slowly, many patients do not need immediate treatment and some do not even require it in their lifetime. Treatment is still based primarily on symptoms or worsening blood counts, not on these prognostic factors.

Supporting Organizations

American Cancer Society, Inc.

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Cancer Research UK

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Cancer.Net

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Email: contactus@cancer.net
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Children's Leukemia Research Association

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Garden City, NY 11530
Tel: (516)222-1944
Fax: (516)222-0457
Email: info@childrensleukemia.org
Website: http://www.childrensleukemia.org

Friends of Cancer Research

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Email: info@focr.org
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Genetic and Rare Diseases (GARD) Information Center

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Tel: (301)251-4925
Fax: (301)251-4911
Tel: (888)205-2311
Website: http://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/GARD/

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

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Rye Brook, NY 10573
Tel: (914)949-5213
Fax: (914)949-6691
Tel: (800)955-4572
Email: infocenter@LLS.org
Website: http://www.LLS.org

Livestrong Foundation

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Tel: (877)236-8820
Email: media@livestrong.org
Website: http://www.livestrong.org

Lymphoma Research Foundation

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Suite 1301
New York, NY 10006
USA
Tel: (212)349-2910
Fax: (212)349-2886
Tel: (800)235-6848
Email: LRF@lymphoma.org
Website: http://www.lymphoma.org

National Cancer Institute

6116 Executive Blvd Suite 300
Bethesda, MD 20892-8322
USA
Tel: (301)435-3848
Tel: (800)422-6237
Email: cancergovstaff@mail.nih.gov
Website: http://www.cancer.gov

OncoLink: The University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center Resource

3400 Spruce Street
2 Donner
Philadelphia, PA 19104-4283
USA
Tel: (215)349-8895
Fax: (215)349-5445
Email: hampshire@uphs.upenn.edu
Website: http://www.oncolink.upenn.edu

Rare Cancer Alliance

1649 North Pacana Way
Green Valley, AZ 85614
USA
Website: http://www.rare-cancer.org

For a Complete Report

This is an abstract of a report from the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). For a full-text version of this report, go to www.rarediseases.org and click on Rare Disease Database under "Rare Disease Information".

The information provided in this report is not intended for diagnostic purposes. It is provided for informational purposes only.

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This disease entry is based upon medical information available through the date at the end of the topic. Since NORD's resources are limited, it is not possible to keep every entry in the Rare Disease Database completely current and accurate. Please check with the agencies listed in the Resources section for the most current information about this disorder.

Last Updated:  6/22/2016
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