Translational Research and its Role in CLL

This year’s Ham-Wasserman Lecture will be delivered by Dr. Michael Hallek (Department I of Internal Medicine and Center of Integrated Oncology Cologne Bonn, University Hospital, Germany) on Saturday, Dec. 1, at 12:30pm. He will speak about translational research and its impact on chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), as advances in understanding the pathogenesis of CLL have led to the development of new diagnostic tools while concurrently, several recently approved agents are poised to dramatically change the management of this disease and have already started to improve clinical outcomes for patients. Dr. Hallek will summarize some of the key findings that have critically contributed to the progress made over the last decades. He will summarize the major insights regarding the biology of CLL as well as the technological advances that allow for a better prognostication of the disease.

According to ASH, Dr. Hallek will outline the relevance of a combined use of clinical, biological, and genetic information for an optimal prognostication of CLL. He will discuss why early, asymptomatic stages should be watched and not treated, while symptomatic cases and advanced stages should receive treatment. Dr. Hallek will also cover the use of chemoimmunotherapy with fludarabine, cyclophosphamide, and rituximab (FCR) as the standard therapeutic option for young, fit patients with symptomatic disease. He will discuss first-line therapy for elderly or unfit CLL patients, which may consist of either ibrutinib monotherapy or chlorambucil combined with anti-CD20 antibodies (preferably obinutuzumab), as well as the use of targeted agents for relapsed patients.

He also plans to summarize novel strategies using combinations of targeted agents to prevent clonal evolution of CLL. Currently, strategies are tested where constant clonal monitoring might be used for early detection and treatment of high-risk mutations that define treatment resistance or support transformation to diffuse large B cell lymphoma (Richter transformation).