Chemotherapy and targeted therapy for CLL
If you need treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), you will often be given a combination of chemotherapy and targeted therapy drugs. Some people have targeted therapy drugs on their own.
Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs called cytotoxics to kill the leukaemia cells or slow their growth. Targeted therapy uses drugs that attack specific features of leukaemia cells to stop them growing and multiplying.
Learn more about:
- Different types of drugs for CLL
- Side effects of chemotherapy
- Taking care with infections
- Video: What is chemotherapy?
Different types of drugs for CLL
Different chemotherapy and targeted therapy drugs come in different forms. Some drugs may be given as a drip into a vein (intravenous infusion) or as an injection, usually during a day visit to a treatment centre, while others are given as tablets that you take at home.
There are many types of drugs for CLL, and the choice will depend on the stage, the results of genetic tests, and your age, health and personal preferences:
- People with CLL who are otherwise fit and healthy will often have a treatment called FCR – a combination of the chemotherapy drugs fludarabine and cyclophosphamide and the targeted therapy drug rituximab. The drugs are usually given over four days, followed by a rest period of a few weeks. This cycle is repeated up to six times.
- In an older person, or someone with other medical issues, the FCR combination may cause too many side effects and a less intense treatment plan may be offered.
- People with some chromosomal abnormalities, such as 17p deletion, may not respond to certain chemotherapy drugs. Your haematologist will talk to you about suitable treatment options.
- If tests show that the leukaemia cells have particular genetic changes, you may be given targeted therapy drugs.
- If CLL returns after initial treatment, other chemotherapy and targeted therapy drugs may be offered.
There is a lot of research into CLL, and new drugs are becoming available. Talk to your doctor about the latest developments.
|During and after treatment, you will have ongoing check-ups with your doctor to monitor your health.|
Video: What is chemotherapy?
Dr Kate Melville, Haematology Staff Specialist, Calvary Mater Newcastle, and Conjoint Lecturer, The University of Newcastle; Karl Jobburn, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Haematology, Liverpool Hospital; Patricia Masters, Consumer; Karen Robinson, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Dr Emma Verner, Staff Specialist, Haematology, and Medical Director, Bone Marrow Transplant and Apheresis Unit, Concord Hospital, and Clinical Senior Lecturer, The University of Sydney.
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