Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) is an incurable B-cell malignancy which disproportionately affects the elderly. Although first-line chemoimmunotherapy (CIT) improved CLL clinical outcomes, recent randomized trials revealed superior outcomes with novel chemotherapy-free combinations (CFC) incorporating anti-CD20 monoclonal antibodies and inhibitors of BTK or Bcl-2. So far, these CFC have not been compared head-to-head. We conducted this network meta-analysis to evaluate their relative efficacy to each other.


A review of the medical literature was conducted using online databases. Inclusion criteria consisted of English language; diagnosis of CLL; trials that explored the efficacy of first-line CFC with Obinutuzumab (O), Rituximab (R), Ibrutinib (IB), Acalabrutinib (ACAL), Venetoclax (VEN) compared to standard CIT that included Chlorambucil (CHLOR) with either R or O, Bendamustine+Rituximab, or Fludarabine+ Cyclophosphamide+R; and phase 3 randomized studies reporting responses, progression, death, and adverse (AE) events. A frequentists network meta-analysis was conducted using netmeta package and random-effects model.


Five studies comprising a total of 2,272 participants were included. When O-based CFC data was analyzed, only ACAL-O had a significant lower relative risk (RR) of progression and death (P&D). There were no significant differences with respect to overall response rates (ORR), complete remission (CR), minimal residual disease (MRD), or grade >3 adverse events (Grd3+) among O-based CFC. When R-based CFC data was analyzed, IB and IB-R were not different with respect to RR of P&D, ORR, CR, MRD, or Grd3+. When the data was analyzed as CFC versus combined CIT, only ACAL-O was found to be significantly superior to other O- and R-based CFC with respect to RR of P&D. ORR and Grad3+ rates of O- and R-based CFC were not significantly different. While ACAL-O, IB-O, and VEN-O had superior CR and MRD rates compared to other CFC, there were no significant differences among each other.


This network meta-analysis is the first to compare and rank first-line CFC therapies in CLL. It indicates that ACAL-O has a superior profile having the lowest RR of P&D without significant difference in Grd3+ among CFC.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.