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Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) treatment in India

01 Dec, 2023

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Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) is a type of cancer that primarily affects the white blood cells, a crucial component of the human immune system. It is characterized by the gradual accumulation of abnormal lymphocytes, a subtype of white blood cells, in the blood and bone marrow. CLL is a chronic condition, often progressing slowly over many years, and it is more common in older adults.

Understanding the treatment options for CLL in India is crucial due to the country's diverse healthcare landscape. India's healthcare system combines state-of-the-art medical facilities in urban areas with more basic healthcare services in rural regions. Additionally, the availability of treatments, their cost, and the expertise of healthcare professionals can vary significantly. Therefore, a comprehensive understanding of CLL treatment options in India is not only beneficial for patients and their families but also for healthcare providers to offer the best possible care.

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Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)

CLL affects the lymphocytes, which are an integral part of the immune system. In CLL, the DNA of a lymphocyte cell gets damaged, causing the cell to reproduce rapidly and uncontrollably. These cancerous lymphocytes accumulate in the blood and bone marrow, eventually crowding out healthy cells and leading to a weakened immune system. Unlike other types of leukemia, CLL usually progresses slowly and might not require immediate treatment.

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Symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes, often painless
  • Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)
  • Night sweats
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Frequent infections
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Abdominal discomfort or fullness (due to an enlarged spleen)
  • Pale skin (anemia)
  • Fever without an obvious cause


Diagnosis Methods:

a. Blood Tests:

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC): To check for high lymphocyte counts.
  • Peripheral Blood Smear: To examine the appearance of blood cells under a microscope.

b. Flow Cytometry: A laboratory technique that identifies and quantifies different cell types in the blood, helping diagnose CLL by identifying abnormal lymphocytes.

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c. Bone Marrow Biopsy: A procedure to collect a sample of bone marrow from the hipbone or sternum for examination under a microscope to confirm the presence of CLL and assess its stage.

d. Imaging Tests:Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: To visualize enlarged lymph nodes or organs like the spleen.

  • Ultrasound: For evaluating abdominal organs.
  • Genetic Testing: To identify specific genetic abnormalities (e.g., deletion 17p) that may influence treatment decisions.
e. Physical Examination: To assess for physical signs such as swollen lymph nodes, spleen enlargement, or liver enlargement.

f. Lymph Node Biopsy: In some cases, a lymph node biopsy may be performed to examine lymph node tissue for CLL cells.


Treatment Options for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) in India

When it comes to treating Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) in India, it's essential to have a comprehensive understanding of the available treatment options. CLL is a type of cancer that primarily affects white blood cells and is characterized by the gradual accumulation of abnormal lymphocytes in the blood and bone marrow. Treatment for CLL in India includes conventional therapies, targeted therapies, immunotherapy, and innovative approaches like clinical trials, CAR T-cell therapy, and bone marrow transplants.


Conventional Treatments:

1. Chemotherapy:

  • Chemotherapy is a well-established treatment for CLL in India. It involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells or stop their growth.
  • Commonly used drugs include fludarabine, cyclophosphamide, and rituximab. These drugs may be administered orally or through intravenous (IV) infusion.
  • Treatment regimes vary but often include several cycles of chemotherapy, followed by periods of rest and monitoring.

. Latest Advances

  • The latest advances in chemotherapy for CLL have introduced more precise and less toxic regimens. For example, novel chemotherapy agents, such as acalabrutinib, have shown promising results with reduced side effects.
  • Tailored chemotherapy plans based on a patient's genetic and molecular profile represent the latest trend, allowing for highly personalized treatment strategies.

2. Targeted Therapy:

  • Targeted therapies have revolutionized CLL treatment in India by specifically targeting molecules or pathways involved in CLL cell growth.
  • Notable targeted drugs include:
    • Ibrutinib: An oral medication that inhibits the Bruton's tyrosine kinase (BTK) pathway.
    • Idelalisib: A phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibitor.
    • Venetoclax: A B-cell lymphoma-2 (BCL-2) inhibitor.

These drugs have shown promising results in managing CLL and are often used alone or in combination with other therapies.

Latest Advances

  • Ibrutinib, a BTK inhibitor, continues to dominate the CLL treatment landscape with its latest applications. Recent studies have explored its use as a frontline therapy, demonstrating high efficacy.
  • The combination of venetoclax and obinutuzumab represents one of the latest breakthroughs, achieving deep remissions and significantly extending progression-free survival.
  • Ongoing research focuses on developing next-generation BTK inhibitors with enhanced selectivity and reduced side effects, representing the cutting edge of targeted therapy.

3. Immunotherapy:

  • Immunotherapy plays a significant role in CLL treatment in India. It involves using the body's immune system to target cancer cells.
  • Monoclonal antibodies like rituximab and obinutuzumab are commonly used in CLL treatment, often in combination with chemotherapy.
  • Immunotherapy can be a less aggressive option with fewer side effects compared to traditional chemotherapy.

Innovative Treatments:

4. Clinical Trials in India:

  • India actively participates in clinical trials for emerging CLL treatments. Clinical trials offer access to cutting-edge therapies still under investigation.
  • These trials evaluate new drugs, treatment combinations, and novel approaches to improving CLL management and outcomes.
  • Patients interested in clinical trials can explore opportunities at specialized cancer centers and hospitals in India.

Latest Advances

  • CAR T-cell therapy is at the forefront of CLL treatment, representing one of the latest and most transformative advances. Recent developments have significantly improved the safety and durability of CAR T-cell responses.
  • Pioneering research in India explores novel CAR constructs and strategies, such as dual-targeting CARs, which hold the potential to further elevate the effectiveness of immunotherapy.

5. CAR T-cell Therapy:

  • CAR T-cell therapy is an innovative form of immunotherapy that has shown remarkable success in treating certain blood cancers, including CLL.
  • In CAR T-cell therapy, a patient's T cells are genetically modified to express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) that target CLL cells specifically.
  • While CAR T-cell therapy is available in India, it is typically reserved for refractory or relapsed CLL cases due to its high cost and specialized nature.

Latest Advances

  • Recent studies in India have propelled CAR T-cell therapy into earlier stages of CLL treatment, marking one of the most significant advancements in recent years.
  • Cutting-edge research explores "universal" or allogeneic CAR T-cell therapies, aiming to simplify the manufacturing process and increase accessibility for patients.

6. Role of Bone Marrow Transplant:

  • Bone marrow transplant (BMT) is considered for select CLL patients, especially those with aggressive disease or after multiple relapses.
  • BMT involves replacing the patient's unhealthy bone marrow with healthy stem cells from a donor (allogeneic transplant) or the patient themselves (autologous transplant).
  • Allogeneic BMT can be curative but is associated with significant risks and complications.

Latest Advances

  • Allogeneic BMT continues to evolve as one of the latest frontiers in CLL treatment. Advances in donor selection, conditioning regimens, and supportive care have significantly improved transplant outcomes.
  • Reduced-intensity conditioning (RIC) regimens are the latest innovation, reducing the toxicity of transplantation and expanding eligibility.

Leading hospitals in India offering CLL treatment

1. Max Healthcare Saket

Hospital Banner


  • Location: New Delhi, Saket, India
  • Max Super Speciality Hospital is a renowned multi-specialty hospital located in Delhi, offering over 500+ bedded facilities and comprehensive medical services.
  • Expertise: Our expert medical team has successfully treated more than 34+ lakh patients across various specialties.
  • Advanced Technology: Equipped with state-of-the-art medical technology, including a 1.5 Tesla MRI machine and a 64 Slice CT Angio.
  • Neurosurgical Advancement: Featuring Asia's first Brain SUITE, enabling MRI imaging during neurosurgery.
  • Awards: Recognized by the Association of Healthcare Providers of India (AHPI) and honored by FICCI for Operational Excellence in Healthcare Delivery on September 7, 2010.

Key Highlights:

Specialized Dialysis Unit: Compliant with international standards, offering hemodialysis for patients with end-stage kidney disease and those requiring renal replacement therapy.

Specialty Clinics:

  • Women's Heart Clinic
  • Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.) Clinic
  • Headache Clinic
  • Geriatric Neurology Clinic
  • Movement Disorder Clinic
  • Pacemaker Clinic
  • Arrhythmia & Electrophysiology Clinic

Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, is committed to delivering top-quality healthcare services and is recognized for its excellence in healthcare delivery and advanced medical infrastructure.


  • Location: Sector - 44, Opposite HUDA City Centre, Gurgaon, Haryana - 122002, India
  • Fortis Memorial Research Institute (FMRI) is a multi-super specialty, quaternary care hospital.
  • It boasts an international faculty, reputed clinicians, super-sub-specialists, and specialty nurses.
  • The hospital is known for utilizing cutting-edge technology to provide advanced medical care.
  • FMRI aims to be the 'Mecca of Healthcare' for Asia Pacific and beyond.
  • The hospital is situated on a spacious 11-acre campus and offers 1000 beds.
  • It is often referred to as the 'Next Generation Hospital' and is built on the pillars of Talent, Technology, Infrastructure, and Service.
  • FMRI has undergone a thorough on-site review of the quality and safety of care provided, and it is committed to continuously meeting rigorous international standards.
  • FMRI is unmatched in the fields of Neurosciences, Oncology, Renal Sciences, Orthopedics, Cardiac Sciences, Obstetrics, and Gynecology.
  • It has solidified its position as one of the top hospitals in Gurgaon by leveraging advanced technology and top clinicians to deliver high-quality healthcare.
  • Fortis Memorial Research Institute is a flagship hospital of Fortis Healthcare, one of the leading healthcare providers in the country.
  • Fortis Memorial Research Institute in Gurgaon is known for its exceptional healthcare services, advanced technology, and a wide range of medical specialties. It is committed to providing top-notch medical care and adhering to international standards of quality and safety.

Specialized hematologists and oncologists in India

1. Dr. Gaurav Dixit


Dr. Gaurav Dixit


  • Location: India
  • Position: Unit Head - Haemato Oncology (Unit II)
  • Hospital: Artemis Hospital
  • Experience: 11+ years
  • Specialties: BMT, Haematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant, Hematology
  • Education: MBBS, MD in General Medicine, DM in Hematology
  • Professional Background: Senior residency, AIIMS Delhi, and various hospitals
  • Certifications: Professional certification in Multiple Myeloma from Mayo Clinic in 2020
  • Expertise Areas: Leukemia, Myeloma, Lymphoma, Aplastic Anemia
  • Professional Memberships: Various medical associations
  • Procedures and Treatments: Stem cell transplants, Bone Marrow procedures, Lumbar Puncture
  • Experience in Treating: Benign hematological disorders, Myeloproliferative Neoplasia

2. Dr. Rahul Bhargava


Dr Rahul Bhargava


  • Blood Disorders and Bone Marrow Transplant
  • Consults at: Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon, and Fortis Hospital, Noida
  • Achievements: Pioneered stem cell transplant in multiple sclerosis in India.
  • Experience: Over 15 years of medical expertise.
  • Transplants: Successfully completed 400+ transplants.
  • Vision: Established an integrated center of excellence in Hematology and Stem Cell Transplantation at Fortis Memorial Research Institute.
  • Recognition: Renowned hematologist in Delhi and Gurgaon.
  • Specialties: Benign Hematology, Hemato-oncology, Pediatric Hemato-oncology, Transplants (including haploidentical), Hematopathology, Molecular Hematology.

3. Dr. Neha Rastogi

Senior Consultant - Medical And Haemato Oncology , Cancer Institute


  • Dr. Neha Rastogi has been trained in various premiere Institutes of India and abroad like Sir Gangaram Hospital (Delhi), BJ Wadia Hospital for children (Mumbai) and Vancouver General Hospital (Canada) where she learned the advances in Pediatric Hematology, Oncology, Immunology and Bone marrow transplantation.
  • She is trained in diagnosing and treating all kinds of anemia, thalassemia, hemophilia, platelet disorders, blood cancers (leukemia) and solid tumors.
  • She brings along her expertise in diagnosing and treating various primary immunodeficiency disorders. She also has a rich experience of performing Hematopoietic stem cell (Bone marrow) transplantation of children and young adults especially with half-matched (haploidentical) and unrelated donors.
  • She has a keen interest in cellular and immune therapy, which she thinks will change the face of oncology and transplantation in future.
  • She has authored a number of publications, and has been actively involved in various seminars, workshops and conferences.
In conclusion, early awareness and detection are paramount in CLL. We urge readers to consult healthcare professionals for personalized guidance, as timely action can significantly impact treatment outcomes and quality of life. Your health matters—take proactive steps for a brighter future.


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CLL is a type of cancer that primarily affects white blood cells, leading to the gradual accumulation of abnormal lymphocytes in the blood and bone marrow.