How COVID-19 Has Impacted Clinical Trials for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia


The COVID-19 Pandemic has changed immediate treatment for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, but it is also impacting the clinical trials looking to improve the future treatment for these patients.

Many patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) rely on the outcomes of clinical trials that examine new ways to treat the disease. But with the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic changing the way health care is provided around the country, so too is participation in these trials, according to Dr. Brian Koffman, the co-founder, executive vice president and chief medical officer of the CLL Society.

CURE® recently spoke with Koffman about how clinical trial participation has become more flexible over the course of the pandemic in an effort to keep immunocompromised individuals like those with CLL safe, by utilizing things like telemedicine and localized care to avoid exposure to the virus.


What I think we’ve learned from how COVID-19 has impacted the treatment schedules for people (with CLL) is that we can be more flexible. That there are a lot of things we can do with a telephone call or with a Zoom or Skype visit like we’re doing right now where we don’t have to get together in person.

Obviously, you can’t feel a lymph node over the TV or computer camera. But, a lot of stuff can be held. And what we’re seeing is that a lot of clinical trials are delaying, postponing some of the in-person meetings, letting people go (if they absolutely need lab work) to local labs to get things done, or just handling it with a telephone call.

Now, obviously if something is happening: you’re running a fever, the disease is taking off, there’s new symptoms, then you’re going to have to go to the clinic. But a lot of this stuff can be handled with a phone call or with a Zoom or Skype-type interview.

And that’s what’s happening for a lot of people, is they’re rescheduling. Because, really, if they can keep us vulnerable patients out of the hospital, the benefits of seeing the doctor personally may not outweigh the disadvantages or risks of walking through the hospital, which is where everyone who’s got a respiratory illness is going to be.

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