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January 2016

Current Therapy and New Directions in the Treatment of Hairy Cell LeukemiaA Review

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of Internal Medicine, Scripps Green Hospital, La Jolla, California
  • 2Division of Hematology/Oncology, Scripps Clinic, La Jolla, California
JAMA Oncol. 2016;2(1):123-129. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2015.4134

Hairy cell leukemia (HCL) is a chronic B-cell leukemia noted for an indolent course that ultimately results in cytopenias and massive splenomegaly. Whereas treatment with the nucleoside purine analogues cladribine and pentostatin results in lengthy remissions in nearly all patients with HCL, most patients will experience relapse while a small percentage of patients’ disease fails to respond to therapy in the first place. Retreatment with a purine nucleoside analogue often leads to an effective but limited response. For decades, few other viable therapeutic options were available to these patients who required retreatment. Recently, new insights into the mechanism of disease of HCL have led to research in new potential treatment agents, either alone or with a purine nucleoside analogue. Clinical trials with rituximab, bendamustine, and conjugate immunotoxins will reveal what role these therapies will have in HCL treatment. A better understanding of the BRAF/MEK/ERK pathway and the B-cell signaling pathway has allowed further exploration into the novel drugs vemurafenib, dabrafenib, trametinib, and ibrutinib.