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A deeper understanding of disease biology and the advent of targeted drugs have implemented chemotherapy-free treatment options in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). With consistently superior outcome data and good tolerability, the Bruton’s kinase inhibitor ibrutinib as well as the B‑cell lymphoma 2 inhibitor venetoclax +/− CD20 antibody have recently been licensed for first-line treatment independently of TP53 status and are currently recommended as therapy of choice in most patient subgroups according to international management guidelines. Survival curves, however, have not reached a plateau and relapse due to acquired resistance or drug intolerance remain major hurdles in CLL treatment. Clinical trials currently focus on the most promising combinations and sequences of highly effective targeted drugs aimed at avoiding drug resistance by further enhancing eradication of minimal residual disease and optimizing drug tolerability. This brief review provides an update on the recently presented clinical trial data in first-line CLL at ASH 2019 and discusses clinically relevant obstacles to overcome.