Patients with therapy-resistant chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) may benefit from stem cell transplantation from healthy donors, according to a study published in Blood (2010 Jul 1. [Epub ahead of print]).

According to background information provided in the press release announcing the study, patients with high-risk CLL do not respond to standard treatment with chemotherapy or antibodies and often die within a few years of the diagnosis.

The study, led by Professor Peter Dreger, MD, senior consultant and head of the division of stem cell transplantation at the Department of Internal Medicine V at Heidelberg University Hospital, included 90 patients with high-risk CLL. Investigators gave patients a reduced dosage of chemotherapy so that the acute tolerance of the transplantation was very good.

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When investigators conducted highly sensitive tests in a large percentage of patients to detect any remaining leukemia cells after the transplantation, half of the patients had no remaining CLL cells detected in the blood in the long term. According to the authors, the results are highly predictive for the lack of recurrence for the follow-up period, which is up to 8 years.

“Our study is the largest so far for this patient population and proved that allogeneic stem cell transplantation is a promising therapy option for high-risk CLL and has the potential to cure for this otherwise incurable kind of leukemia,” concluded Dr. Dreger.