Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

The internationally renowned experts at the Ohio State Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) leukemia research program are dedicated to developing and conducting basic, translational, clinical and outcome-based research that advances innovative breakthroughs and treatments for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

Anchored by a collaborative spirit combined with a multi-disciplinary approach, this team of specialized investigators is leading research in highly interactive, state-of-the-art laboratories not available anywhere else in central Ohio (and one of only a handful in the country), transforming the way CLL is detected and treated.

CLL is complex, and today, this disease is no longer solely defined by location or even by stage – there is no routine blood cancer. Each patient’s disease is different, acting and reacting differently to the bodies they are in and the treatments aimed at improving quality of life.


The OSUCCC – James leukemia research program’s mission is to work collaboratively to create and conduct impactful, groundbreaking research that leads to novel therapeutics and therapeutic approaches that improve the lives of patients diagnosed with CLL.

To deliver the most effective cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment, these world-renowned experts identify and understand blood cancers and blood diseases at the genetic level, unlocking the unique genetic and molecular code of each patient’s disease and pinpointing what makes it grow or cause symptoms.

Who We Are

The leukemia research program team at the OSUCCC – James is a multicultural team comprising highly talented individuals – including 42 investigators from four colleges and 11 academic departments at Ohio State – who strive to reach the highest accomplishment levels while also maintaining a humble demeanor, respecting each other and sharing knowledge. This enables the team to extend in a broad range of directions, without fear of failure, to impact and change patients’ lives. How? As they seamlessly translate their research from the laboratory bench to the bedside, their highly compassionate care makes every patient feel as if he or she is the most important person being treated.

Supported by several large, ongoing collaborative or network research grants, the leukemia research program is further bolstered by the OSUCCC – James Experimental Hematology Laboratory, which conducts translational research and promotes collaborations across the university and nation to improve understanding of CLL and to develop new therapies. Led by internationally recognized leukemia physician and cancer researcher John C. Byrd, MD, the lab comprises 10 different research teams and more than 85 individuals from across numerous medical and research disciplines within various interdisciplinary research teams.

Together with the Experimental Hematology Lab, the leukemia research program expertise includes:

  • Molecular biology
  • Genomics and gene editing
  • Computational biology
  • Molecular pharmacology
  • Immunopharmacology
  • Animal models of blood cancers and diseases
  • Comparative oncology
  • Clinical trial design and implementation
  • Pharmacodynamic studies
  • Web development analytics

Clinical Trials

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.

One of the exciting research studies at the OSUCCC – James offers even more options for older patients diagnosed with chronic CLL. Results from a multi-institutional, phase 3 clinical trial show that these patients have a significantly lower rate of disease progression if treated with the newer targeted drug, ibrutinib, rather than bendamustine plus rituximab – the regimen previously considered as one of the most effective therapies in this group of patients.

The study, which is the first head-to-head comparison between these treatments, also suggests adding the immune-based therapy rituximab to ibrutinib does not bring additional benefits beyond those seen with ibrutinib alone.

Study results were reported simultaneously at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) 2018 annual meeting and in the New England Journal of Medicine on Dec. 1, 2018.

Other current clinical trials include:

ARQ 531 in Selected Subjects with Relapsed or Refractory Hematologic Malignancies
Protocol: OSU-17111
Principal Investigator: Jennifer Woyach, MD

Venetoclax in Combination With Obinutuzumab and Ibrutinib in Treating Patients With Relapsed, Refractory or Previously Untreated Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
Protocol: OSU-14266
Principal Investigator: Kerry Rogers, MD

Ph II Venetoclax Added to Ibrutinib to Eliminate Ibrutinib Resistance Mutations in CLL
Protocol: OSU-17387
Principal Investigator: Kerry Rogers, MD

Ibrutinib Plus Obinutuzumab vs Ibrutinib Plus Venetoclax & Obinutuzumab Untreated Older Pts w/ CLL
Protocol: ALLIANCE-A041702
Principal Investigator: Jennifer Woyach, MD

At any given time, there are many active clinical trials for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. View a comprehensive list of CLL clinical trials.

The leukemia research program benefits from National Cancer Institute (NCI) funding to the OSUCCC – James, which supports the cost of conducting phase I and phase II clinical trials, and that facilitates the movement of promising phase II studies into phase III national trials.

As one of only a few institutions approved by NCI to conduct phase I and II clinical trials on NCI-sponsored anticancer agents, the OSUCCC – James has access to more leading-edge, targeted cancer therapies than most hospitals across America. That translates to better outcomes, fewer side effects and more hope.

Clinical Research Accomplishments

The OSUCCC – James leukemia research program experts often present their findings and accomplishments to medical experts from around the world through presentations, publications and numerous national and international meetings and conferences they attend throughout each year.

Many of the research program accomplishments stem from studies conducted between the laboratory and clinic and involve several therapeutic agents that are active in treating patients with CLL. Leukemia expert John C. Byrd, MD, and his colleagues have shown that therapeutic agents such as rituximab, idelalisib, ibrutinib and acalabrutinib are effective against CLL, and they have led efforts to understand how resistance develops to these agents. The work with ibrutinib was transformative in eliminating the use of chemotherapy in most patients with CLL and changing the natural history of this disease. Additionally, the work with ibrutinib extended beyond CLL to other diseases such as chronic graft versus host disease, for which it is currently approved for use.

The early stage clinical trials led by the OSUCCC – James research experts now form the basis for current phase III studies in CLL, which will ultimately determine if this is the new standard of care.

Translational Research Accomplishments

BRD4 Profiling Identifies Critical Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Oncogenic Circuits and Reveals Sensitivity to PLX51107, a Novel Structurally Distinct BET Inhibitor. Published in Cancer Discovery.

PIs: Enver Ozer, MD; James Blachly, MD; Nicole Grieselhuber, MD, PhD; Lapo Alinari, MD, PhD; Robert
       Baiocchi, MD, PhD; Jennifer Woyach, MD; Deepa Sampath, PhD; Ewy Mathe, PhD; John Byrd, MD;
       Rosa Lapalombella, PhD

The BTK Inhibitor ARQ 531 Targets Ibrutinib-Resistant CLL and Richter Transformation. Published in Cancer Discovery.

PIs: Kami Maddocks, MD; Deepa Sampath, PhD; Rosa Lapalombella, PhD; John Byrd, MD; Jennifer
       Woyach, MD

Ibrutinib Treatment Improves T-Cell Number and Function in CLL Patients. Published in Journal of Clinical Investigation.

PIs: Bethany Mundy-Bosse, PhD; Kami Maddocks, MD; Jennifer Woyach, MD; Natarajan Muthusamy, DVM,
       PhD; John Byrd, MD

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