Plasma cell leukemia

What is plasma cell leukemia (PCL)?

PCL is a rare, but aggressive form of multiple myeloma. It may begin as the progression of myeloma or occur in patients with no previous history of myeloma.

In myeloma, abnormal plasma cells form and collect in the bone marrow. In PCL, these abnormal plasma cells are not only in the bone marrow, but also circulating the body in the blood.

Who is at risk for PCL?

Instances of PCL without a history of myeloma are rare. PCL is more likely to develop as a progression of myeloma, and while uncommon, these diagnoses are on the rise as myeloma treatments improve and myeloma patients live longer.

Like myeloma, the causes of PCL are not fully known. It likely results from a combination of genetics and environmental factors, and is more common among men than women.

PCL symptoms

As an advanced form of myeloma, PCL has many of the same symptoms.

  • Bone pain an increased risk of fractures
  • Excessive fatigue
  • More prone to infections, or recurring infections
  • Bleeding
  • High calcium levels
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver or spleen enlargement

How is PCL diagnosed?

PCL is diagnosed through a blood test. This test measures the percentage of the blood which is made up of abnormal plasma cells. PCL is diagnosed when 20% or more of the white blood cells are abnormal plasma cells.

Treatment options for PCL

As an advanced form of myeloma, the treatment options for PCL are similar to multiple myeloma but may be more intensive.

These treatments may include chemotherapy, steroids, stem cell transplantation, and their combined use with other agents.

Research is currently being conducted to improve the therapy options available to patients with PLC, particularly in cases where the condition has progressed from multiple myeloma. Consult with your physician to learn more about the therapies and clinical trials currently available.

Last reviewed: 
March 2018

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