Melanoma Associated with CLL Creates Need for Closer Monitoring


The study findings suggest that, while the link between chronic lymphocytic leukemia and melanoma had been known, the rate at which the link occurs is higher than expected.

Researchers from Wilmot Cancer Institute have found that patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) had a 600% higher risk of melanoma, according to a study published in the journal Leukemia Research.

Although previous studies have shown a higher risk of melanoma among patients with CLL, detection rates and treatment efficacy had yet to be reported, according to the researchers. As a result of these new data, the study authors recommend that all clinical teams who care for patients with CLL monitor for melanoma as part of their care routine, with a goal of catching it early and managing it with new targeted therapies.

According to the press release, 22 melanomas were diagnosed among 470 people in the cohort of patients with CLL, which is 600% higher than the expected rate in a similar group of age- and gender-matched people from the general population. Of the 22 diagnoses, 15 (68%) were detected through monitoring in the University of Rochester Medicine dermatology clinic associated with the study authors and 2 cases (9%) were found by CLL specialists. Eighty-eight percent of the cases involved earlier-stage disease with a better prognosis, according to the press release.

The same study also included evidence of a drug therapy combination that lead to effective results. One CLL patient, a 75-year old woman, developed advanced melanoma and was treated with the immunotherapy drug, pembrolizumab. She went into remission for more than 2 years, according to the release.

It was noted in the study that the patient had been taking ibrutinib as a therapy for leukemia. The study authors believe that this is the first published report to offer evidence that the ibrutinib/pembrolizumab combination was effective in these patients.

The study authors suggest that further studies seek solutions for the link between CLL and melanoma.


  • Melanoma Linked with CLL, Wilmot Recommends Close Monitoring [press release]. University of Rochester Medical Center. Published August 13, 2019. Accessed August 23, 2019.

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