Unusual complications in the management of chronic lymphocytic leukemia


Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a common, indolent disease that typically presents with a proliferation of mature, immunologically dysfunctional CD5+ B-cells which preferentially occupy the bone marrow, peripheral blood and lymphoid organs. Immune dysfunction leads to an increase in autoimmune diseases which occur in approximately 10% of patients with CLL. Autoimmune cytopenias are the most common, but other organs may be affected as well. The treatment of these conditions typically depends on the extent of CLL and severity of symptoms, but generally consists of CLL-directed therapies, immunosuppression or both. CLL may also infiltrate extranodal sites in the body. Symptomatic extranodal CLL or extranodal disease which threatens normal organ function is an indication for initiation of CLL-directed therapy. The following review summarizes autoimmune and extranodal complications that can occur in patients with CLL and our suggested approach to their treatment.