Plasma cell leukaemia

Find out about plasma cell leukaemia, including how it’s diagnosed, treated and managed.

What is plasma cell leukaemia?

Plasma cell leukaemia (PCL), also known as plasma cell myeloma, is a rare type of cancer characterised by unusually high levels of abnormal plasma cells in the blood. Similar to myeloma, PCL affects the plasma cells that are normally found in the bone marrow and form part of the immune system. In myeloma and PCL, the plasma cells become abnormal and multiply out of control.

PCL can start by itself or it can evolve from advanced myeloma.

How is PCL diagnosed?

PCL is diagnosed by the number of abnormal plasma cells in the blood. A diagnosis is confirmed when there are more than 2 million abnormal plasma cells per millilitre of blood, or when abnormal plasma cells make up more than 20 per cent of the total number of white blood cells present in the blood.

How is PCL treated and managed?

Current treatments for PCL are the same as those used in myeloma and include drugs such as thalidomide, bortezomib (Velcade®) and lenalidomide (Revlimid®). High-dose therapy and stem cell transplantation is generally offered to younger and/or fitter patients. Supportive treatment is important to help prevent or reduce the symptoms and complications of PCL. These may include pain-killers, blood transfusions and antibiotics.

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