Key Points

  • Both ȁ8;watch and waitȁ9; and treated CLL patients when admitted for COVID-19 have high mortality rates

  • Receiving a BTKi for CLL at COVID-19 diagnosis severe enough to require hospitalization did not influence case fatality rate in this study

Given advanced age, comorbidities, and immune dysfunction, CLL patients may be at particularly high risk of infection and poor outcomes related to coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19). Robust analysis of outcomes for CLL patients, particularly examining effects of baseline characteristics and CLL-directed therapy, is critical to optimally manage CLL patients through this evolving pandemic. CLL patients diagnosed with symptomatic COVID-19 across 43 international centers (n=198) were included. Hospital admission occurred in 90%. Median age at COVID-19 diagnosis was 70.5 years. Median CIRS score was 8 (range 4-32). Thirty-nine percent were treatment-naïve ("watch and wait") while 61% had received ≥1 CLL-directed therapy (median 2, range 1-8). Ninety patients (45%) were receiving active CLL therapy at COVID-19 diagnosis, most commonly BTK inhibitors (BTKi; n=68/90, 76%). At a median follow-up of 16 days, the overall case fatality rate (CFR) was 33%, though 25% remain admitted. "Watch and wait" and treated cohorts had similar rates of admission (89% vs. 90%), ICU admission (35% vs. 36%), intubation (33% vs. 25%), and mortality (37% vs. 32%). CLL-directed treatment with BTKi at COVID-19 diagnosis did not impact survival (CFR 34% vs. 35%), though BTKi was held during COVID-19 course for most patients. These data suggest that the subgroup of CLL patients admitted with COVID-19, regardless of disease phase or treatment status, are at high risk of death. Future epidemiologic studies are needed to assess SARS-CoV-2 infection risk, these data should be validated independently, and randomized studies of BTKi in COVID-19 are needed to provide definitive evidence of benefit.

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