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This phase II study determined the efficacy and safety of alemtuzumab, a humanized anti-CD52 monoclonal antibody, delivered subcutaneously as first-line therapy, over a prolonged treatment period of 18 weeks in 41 patients with symptomatic B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL). Injections were administered subcutaneously 3 times per week, from week 2 to 3 onward. An overall response rate (OR) of 87% (95% CI, 76%-98%; complete remission [CR], 19%; partial remission [PR], 68%) was achieved in 38 evaluable patients (81% of intent-to-treat population). CLL cells were cleared from blood in 95% patients in a median time of 21 days. CR or nodular PR in the bone marrow was achieved in 66% of the patients and most patients achieved this after 18 weeks of treatment. An 87% OR (29% CR) was achieved in the lymph nodes. The median time to treatment failure has not yet been reached (18+ months; range, 8-44+ months). Transient injection site skin reactions were seen in 90% of patients. Rigor, rash, nausea, dyspnea, and hypotension were rare or absent. Transient grade IV neutropenia developed in 21% of the patients. Infections were rare, but 10% patients developed cytomegalovirus (CMV) reactivation. These patients rapidly responded to intravenous ganciclovir. One patient, allergic to cotrimoxazole prophylaxis, developed Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. Alemtuzumab is highly effective as first-line treatment in patients with B-CLL. Prolonged treatment is important for maximal bone marrow response. Subcutaneous administration induced very few "first-dose" flulike symptoms and may reduce health care costs in comparison with the intravenous infusions.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





768 - 773


Adult, Aged, Alemtuzumab, Antibodies, Monoclonal, Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized, Antibodies, Neoplasm, Antigens, CD, Antigens, Neoplasm, Antineoplastic Agents, CD52 Antigen, Follow-Up Studies, Glycoproteins, Humans, Injections, Subcutaneous, Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell, Middle Aged, Remission Induction, Treatment Outcome