Colleagues who are actively involved today in research in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) might be surprised to know that this disease, as recently as half a century ago, was considered to be boring and uninteresting. Clinically, there was a general sense of therapeutic nihilism and there was frustration because CLL had a totally unpredictable course. At research level, not many scientists were interested because at that time, even the distinction between lymphocytes being of T-cell or B-cell in origin had not been made. Galton and Dameshek, the eminent clinician-scientists hypothesized that CLL lymphocytes lived longer than other lymphocytes and, therefore, CLL is an accumulative (rather than proliferative) disease. When Binet proposed a clinical staging system which he felt was an improvement on another system proposed a few years earlier by Rai, physicians treating CLL immediately took note. They found that both these staging systems were easy to use in the clinic and, for the first time, provided them with a tool for making therapeutic decisions. Suddenly, CLL became an interesting disease! Basic scientists and clinicians started to develop research ideas, both on pathophysiology as well as on improving the patients’ clinical outlook. To herald the opening of this new era for CLL, in 1979, Dr. Binet organised the first meeting of what would soon be known as international workshop on Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (iwCLL).
The first meeting, in 1979, was a huge success. By invitation from Dr Binet, it was attended by twelve physicians (from Europe and USA): Jacques-Louis Binet, David Galton, Eugene P Cronkite, Kanti R Rai, Daniel Catovsky, Emili Montserrat, Guilliame Dighiero, Arthur Sawitsky, Mogens Hansen, Pradeep Chandra, Gunnar Juliusson and Tin Han. Very rapidly, investigators in immunology, molecular biology and targeted therapies joined iwCLL and took leadership roles. In the intervening forty years, iwCLL has met 20 times. Today, iwCLL is led by a committee comprised of Jacques-Louis Binet, Federico Caligaris-Cappio, Daniel Catovsky, Nick Chiorazzi, Carlo Croce, Guillermo Dighiero, Hartmut Döhner, Michael Hallek, Peter Hillmen, Michael Keating, Thomas Kipps, Emili Montserrat, Kanti Rai, Stephan Stilgenbauer.
iwCLL as initially perceived by Binet continued as a meeting forum for a group of friends. Their deliberations remained informal and with the passage of time (as a result of newer discoveries in genetics and molecular biology of CLL), it has become necessary to have formalised agendas and the character of the meetings had to be changed from informal discussions to a true scientific congress. However, despite the introduction of formal format, the underlying core of iwCLL has remained constant. These core characteristics of iwCLL are: it is acceptable to disagree, if necessary, on scientific grounds and to encourage arguments in a respectful manner, willingness to share new ideas (even if previously unpublished), a genuine pride in collaboration, and encouraging joint efforts between basic scientists and clinical investigators.
The number of attendees at each iwCLL has increased progressively, from 12 at its first meeting in Paris in 1979 to 1300 in Edinburgh in 2019. However, the excitement in sharing new research, developing trust, and friendship, our efforts towards finding a cure for CLL have remained the magnet which binds all participants in iwCLL.
CLL Digital Archive
The CLL Digital Archive chronicles the history of CLL. It seeks to educate about the evolution and intellectual history of scientific and medical advancements in chronic lymphocytic leukemia research.CLL Digital Archive