A robust scientific programme to transform blood cancers

Despite great strides in the treatment and understanding of blood cancers in recent years, there remain critical unmet needs for this diverse and complex family of diseases. These significant gaps in treating and caring for patients with blood cancer are why AstraZeneca is committed to the development of innovative therapies.

Our vision is to be a scientific leader in haematology by helping to transform care for the 3.1 million people living with blood cancers worldwide.1

There are over 130 types of blood cancers and related disorders of the blood, bone marrow or lymph nodes, including leukaemias, lymphomas and myelomas.2 Blood cells perform functions critical to human health, such as fighting off infections and preventing serious bleeding. Blood cancer typically begins in bone marrow, where blood cells are made. Once blood cells become cancerous, the uncontrolled growth of divergent cells can affect the blood’s ability to function.

We have identified seven disease states as our core areas of focus, including diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, acute myeloid leukaemia, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, mantle cell lymphoma, hairy cell leukaemia, multiple myeloma and myelodysplastic syndrome.

Our approach to research

AstraZeneca is guided first and foremost by science. Our approach to tackling the diversity and complexity of blood cancers is to identify highly promising mechanisms in our pipeline and align them with the greatest unmet need. We are leveraging our 40+ year heritage in oncology to advance blood cancer treatments that address critical unmet medical needs.

Our pipeline in action

Our robust development programme includes over 20 monotherapy and combination clinical trials across multiple B-cell blood cancers.3

Combination therapy continues to be a cornerstone for patient care. The breadth and depth of our pipeline enables us to explore potential synergies between our own molecules: we are actively researching different combination treatment approaches across multiple mechanisms. 

Our commitment to the blood cancer community

Each person impacted by blood cancer, whether they are a patient, caregiver, family member or friend, is another reason our researchers work every day to advance the science in haematology. We’re proud to be part of and to collaborate with the blood cancer community to help transform care and to create new treatment options for those battling blood cancers. We may be at the beginning of our ambitious journey in haematology, but through our strategic partnerships, we are already delivering transformational therapies to enhance and extend the lives of people living with blood cancer. We are proud of the progress we have made on behalf of the blood cancer community, but we recognize that there is far more to be done.

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia: a common and complex blood cancer

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is the most common type of leukaemia in adults, with an estimated 105,000 new cases globally in 2016, and the number of people living with CLL is expected to grow with improved treatment as patients live longer with the disease.4,5,6,7

In CLL, cancerous cells crowd the bone marrow leaving less room for healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. This can lead to infection, anaemia and bleeding.5 When CLL cells are found mostly in the lymph nodes, they are called small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL) cells.8 The majority of CLL patients have multiple comorbid health conditions, though disease progression and complications are the primary causes of death.9

There are treatment options to help manage CLL, however, some patients, including those that are older or have other conditions, may experience serious long-term or late effects from existing therapies.10,11 For many patients with CLL, the disease may return even after successful treatment.12 New therapies aim to address these needs for patients with CLL.

CLL is characterized by a variety of molecular abnormalities that are responsible for disease development, progression, and transformation.13 The presence of certain biomarkers in CLL is increasingly used to inform the best course of treatment.14

As our understanding of CLL advances, we are learning more about the disease’s biomarkers and the valuable role their presence plays in determining a patient’s risk category and in guiding treatment decisions.13,15

Mantle cell lymphoma: a rare and highly variable cancer

Lymphoma is a blood cancer of the lymphatic system. It is caused by the rapid production of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.16 B cells and T cells are the two types of lymphocytes that can develop into lymphomas.17 The two main types of lymphoma are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).16 MCL is a rare NHL typically resulting when B-lymphocytes mutate into malignant cells within a region of the lymph node known as the mantle zone.18,19

MCL is often diagnosed as a late-stage disease after it has spread to the gastrointestinal tract and bone marrow.18 MCL can vary in clinical presentation and aggressiveness. Symptoms may include swelling of the lymph nodes, fever, night sweats, weight loss, and fatigue, though some people have no to few signs of MCL leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment.17,19

There is no cure for MCL; however, there are treatment options to help manage the disease, and recent treatment advances have improved patient outcomes. Unfortunately, for many patients the disease may return after treatment.20 Additional treatment options are needed for people who relapse or do not respond to treatment.


1. World Health Organization. Worldwide Cancer Fact Sheet 2018 (Incidence, Mortality and Prevalence by cancer site). Available at: http://gco.iarc.fr/today/data/factsheets/populations/900-world-fact-sheets.pdf. Accessed December 2020.

2. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada. Facts and Statistics. Available at: https://www.llscanada.org/disease-information/facts-and-statistics. Accessed December 2020.

3. AstraZeneca. Year-to-date and Q3 2020 results update. Clinical trials appendix. Published 5 November 2020. Available at: https://www.astrazeneca.com/investor-relations/results-and-presentations.html. Accessed December 2020.

4. American Cancer Society. What is Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia? Available at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/chronic-lymphocytic-leukemia/about/what-is-cll.html. Accessed December 2020.

5. National Cancer Institute. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version. Available at https://www.cancer.gov/types/leukemia/patient/cll-treatment-pdq. Accessed December 2020.

6. Global Burden of Disease Cancer Collaboration. Global, Regional, and National Cancer Incidence, Mortality, Years of Life Lost, Years Lived With Disability, and Disability-Adjusted Life-Years for 29 Cancer Groups, 1990 to 2016. JAMA Oncol. 2018;4(11):1553-1568.

7. Jain N, et al. Prevalence and Economic Burden of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) in the Era of Oral Targeted Therapies. Blood. 2015;126:871.

8. National Cancer Institute. NCI Dictionaries. CLL/SLL. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/cll-sll. Accessed December 2020.

9. Strati P, et al. Disease Progression and Complications Are the Main Cause of Death in Patients with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) Independent of Age and Comorbidities at Diagnosis. Blood. 2015;126(23):5265.

10. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Types of Treatment. Available at: https://www.lls.org/treatment/types-of-treatment. Accessed December 2020.

11. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Long-Term and Late Effects for Cancer Survivors. Available at: https://www.lls.org/managing-your-cancer/long-term-and-late-effects-for-cancer-survivors. Accessed December 2020.

12. Lymphoma Research Foundation. Understanding Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia/Small Lymphocytic Lymphoma. Available at: https://lymphoma.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/LRF_FACTSHEET_CLL_SLL-1.pdf. Accessed December 2020.

13. Moia R, et al. Precision Medicine Management of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. Cancers. 10 March 2020;12(3):642. Doi:10.3390/cancers12030642.

14. Amaya-Chanaga CI and Rassenti LZ. Biomarkers in chronic lymphocytic leukemia: Clinical applications and prognostic markers. Best Pract Res Clin Haematol. March 2016;29(1):79-89.

15. Lee J and Want YL. Prognostic and Predictive Molecular Biomarkers in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. J Mol Diagn. 1 September 2020;22(9):1114-1125.

16. Lymphoma Research Foundation. About Lymphoma. https://lymphoma.org/aboutlymphoma/. Accessed December 2020.

17. Lymphoma Research Foundation. Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL). https://lymphoma.org/aboutlymphoma/nhl/. Accessed December 2020.

18. Lymphoma Research Foundation. Mantle Cell Lymphoma. https://lymphoma.org/aboutlymphoma/nhl/mcl/. Accessed December 2020.

19. National Organization for Rare Disorders. Mantle Cell Lymphoma. https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/mantle-cell-lymphoma/. Accessed December 2020.

20. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Mantle Cell Lymphoma Facts. https://www.lls.org/sites/default/files/file_assets/mantlecelllymphoma.pdf. Accessed December 2020.

Veeva ID: Z4-29505
Date of Preparation: December 2020