Linking Melanoma with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia


While observing a large group of individuals with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), a research team at Wilmot Cancer Institute discovered that these patients had a 600% higher risk of melanoma. 

The research team, led by Dlive Zent, M.D., international expert in CLL, published a full analysis of detection rates and treatments for patients with CLL in the journal Leukemia Research.


The study results showed that of the 470 patients partaking in the study, 22 were diagnosed with melanoma, which was a 600% higher rate than a similar group that did not have CLL. Roughly 15 out of 22, or 68%, of the patients had been diagnosed through monitoring in the UR Medicine dermatology clinic associated with Wilmot, while 9% were found by CLL specialists. 

Of the detected patients with melanoma, about 77% of the melanomas had been detected at a non-advanced stage. One patient, a 75-year-old woman, used Ibrutinib and pembrolizumab as an effective therapy for progressive CLL and metastatic melanoma.

Beyond the Study

"We do not for sure know why CLL patients are more susceptible to melanoma, but the most likely cause is a suppressed immune system," expalined Zent. "Normally, in people with healthy immune systems, malignant skin cells might be detected and destroyed before they become a problem. But in CLL patients, failure of this control system increases the rate at which cancer cells can grow into tumors, and also the likelihood that they will become invasive or spread to distant sites."

Thus, Zent highly recommends that any teams who care for CLL patients whould actively monitor for melanoma as a part of the patient's routine care. 

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