The internationally recognized experts at the OSUCCC – James believe the best way to treat patients and manage their disease successfully is to be at the forefront of delivering the latest, most effective treatments available and by working with nationally and internationally renowned experts to develop the newest and best hairy cell leukemia (HCL) treatments and programs.

Because these renowned subspecialists understand that HCL is a complex disease, they use the most effective means of treating patients through an expert team approach from across multiple medical disciplines. These teams also run groundbreaking studies, and through detailed observations, evaluate the latest treatments and targeted therapies.

The OSUCCC – James team of experts analyzes the genetic composition of each individual’s leukemia to determine the best possible treatment, offering improved outcomes, faster responses and fewer side effects.

Treatment for Hairy Cell Leukemia

The OSUCCC – James is a leader in offering some of the world’s most advanced, sophisticated treatments for leukemia patients.

Hairy cell leukemia (HCL) tends to grow slowly, and patients without symptoms often don't need to be treated immediately, but they should be regularly and closely monitored until signs or symptoms appear. This is called watchful waiting.

Once the OSUCCC – James experts determine treatment should begin, one or more of the following targeted therapies may be recommended to treat HCL:


Chemotherapy destroys the leukemia cells or stops them from dividing. By destroying the cancer cells, chemotherapy can also relieve many of the symptoms of HCL, especially helping patients who have low blood cell counts, recurrent infections or an enlarged spleen or lymph nodes.
Chemotherapy drugs can be taken by mouth or injected in a vein.
Injection treatments usually take place in an outpatient part of the hospital, and oral medication can be taken at home. Some patients may need to stay in the hospital for treatment, depending on their individual medical needs.


Immunotherapies, also sometimes called biologic therapies, work in many different ways. Some boosts an HCL patient’s immune system to help fight cancer. Interferon is an immunotherapy agent used for some patients with HCL. Other therapies, called monoclonal antibody therapies can target specific proteins on the outside of the cancer cell.


Some patients who have HCL need to have their spleen removed if it has been affected by the leukemia. This procedure is called a splenectomy.

Targeted Therapies

Targeted therapies are drugs that attack cancer cells without destroying healthy surrounding cells. These therapies are particularly effective in treating HCL with fewer harmful side effects than with traditional chemotherapy.

Leukemia Biomarker Testing

In just the past few years, new drugs have further changed how HCL is treated, including delivering these drugs in various combinations with chemotherapy to keep HCL in remission.

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

Hairy Cell Leukemia & Clinical Trials

For leukemia patients, clinical trials mean hope.

The OSUCCC – James has hundreds of open clinical trials at any given time, with some of the world’s latest discoveries available to clinical trial patients right here in Columbus, Ohio. In fact, patients have access to more of this nation’s leading-edge, targeted treatments and drugs than at most hospitals in the region.

Two of many exciting new research studies at the OSUCCC – James offer new hope for patients who had not been previously diagnosed with HCL or whose HCL has come back. These studies will look at therapies that target the very cancer cells — and only those cells — within an HCL patient. One of those therapies, a drug called ibrutinib, has already shown tremendous promise in sending HCL back into remission. The phase II ibrutinib trial investigates whether the drug will stop the growth of cancer cells by blocking some of the enzymes needed for cell growth. In another trial, researchers are investigating how well the drug vemurafenib eliminates hairy cell leukemia cells from the blood.

Who Should Participate in a Clinical Trial?

Patients can enter clinical trials before, during or after starting their individual treatments.

The OSUCCC – James is one of only a few U.S. cancer centers funded by the National Cancer Institute to conduct phase I and phase II clinical trials on novel anticancer drugs. These trials go only to centers that demonstrate an exemplary capacity for research and clinical care, the expertise to deliver the latest in treatments and the infrastructure to interpret and track treatment results.

If you’ve been diagnosed with hairy cell leukemia, would like a second opinion or would like to speak with a leukemia specialist, please call The James Line at 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment.

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The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute

460 West 10th Avenue

Columbus, Ohio 43210

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