Introduction: Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) often has an extended disease course. With a median age at diagnosis of 72 years, newer treatment options with less toxicity than standard nucleoside analogue-based regimens are needed. Historically, few therapy options are available once CLL has become refractory to nucleoside analogues. Bendamustine has emerged as a feasible therapy for older and less fit CLL patients, with clinical efficacy in previously untreated and refractory CLL. Areas covered: This paper reviews several of the pivotal clinical trials that established the clinical activity of bendamustine in previously untreated and relapsed/refractory CLL. The toxicity profile of bendamustine, primarily myelosuppression and infections, is reviewed and compared across different CLL populations. A review of the clinical data focuses on potential explanations for differences in response rates and duration of remission reported across studies and how this may impact the development of therapies for CLL. Expert opinion: Bendamustine is a valuable new agent for the management of CLL. Ongoing clinical trials are comparing bendamustine with standard CLL regimens in untreated disease, and investigating bendamustine combinations with novel targeted therapies and monoclonal antibodies. These studies will help to define the optimal role for bendamustine in CLL management.
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
- Small lymphocytic lymphoma