Autoimmune disorders often develop during the course of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The aim of our study was to investigate the incidence of autoimmune complications (AIC) and serological autoantibodies, and to assess the relationship of these to patient characteristics.
We prospectively collected screenings of AIC and serological markers from a total of 192 patients.
AIC was observed in 18 (9.4%) patients. Autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA) was observed in 8 patients. Autoimmune thrombocytopenia (AITP) was observed in 3 patients. Other various types of AIC were observed in the remaining 7 patients. Serological autoantibodies were positive in 17.2% of patients with CLL. The mean age of patients with AIC was higher than the control group (p = 0.036). Patients with AIC were mostly in advanced disease stage (p = 0.004), and they had received more first-line treatments than the control group (p = 0.003). Patients with AIC had a higher mean age and more advanced disease stage than patients with positive serological autoantibodies (p = 0.020 and p = 0.009; respectively). In addition, patients with AIC had also received more first-line treatment than the patients with positive serological autoantibodies (p = 0.015). Hematologic AIC was associated with older age, advanced disease stage, and treatment. Conversely, non-hematological AIC and serological autoantibodies are generally observed in early stages.
Our study has established a coexistence of CLL and autoimmune complications. Hematologists are usually familiar with AIHA and AITP, but less so with non-hematologic AIC. The latter complications should be carefully searched for, particularly in patients with early CLL.