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Hairy cell leukaemia treatment

How is hairy cell leukaemia treated?

In recent years effective drug treatments for HCL have been developed.


Chemotherapy is the main form of treatment for HCL. The aim of treatment is to destroy leukaemic cells and induce a remission. This means that there is no evidence of leukaemic cells in the blood and bone marrow and that normal blood cell production and normal blood counts are restored. A specific type of chemotherapy drug used is called a purine analogue. There are different variants of this type of chemotherapy available and your doctor will decide the best option for you.

Chemotherapy is usually given in several cycles (or courses) of treatment with a rest period of a few weeks in between each cycle. If a relapse of your disease does occur there is a very high probability that further treatment will be successful. Study and clinical trials that have been undertaken examining the use of targeted therapy most often in patients who have relapsed, have shown promising results. Your specialist will discuss treatment options with you if relapse occurs.


Prior to the use of chemotherapy in successfully treating HCL, interferon was widely used. Interferon is now mainly used for patients who have low level blood counts as chemotherapy can lower these levels further.


Patients who have their spleen removed (splenectomy) will find it relieves the discomfort caused by the enlargement and it may also defer the need for other treatments in the short term. After a splenectomy a patient is more susceptible to infections and will need to see their doctor immediately if they are unwell.