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Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is a rare type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma characterized under the microscope by expansion of the mantle zone area of the lymph node with a homogeneous (structurally similar) population of malignant small lymphoid cells. These cancerous cells have slightly irregular nuclei and very little cytoplasm, and are mixed with newly made normal lymphocytes (white blood cells) that travel from the bone marrow to the lymph nodes and spleen. Unlike normal lymphocytes, they do not mature properly and become cancerous instead.
The body's immune system produces two types of lymphocytes or white blood cells: the B cells which are made in the bone marrow and the T cells which are made in the thymus. Both types of cells are found in the lymph, the clear liquid that bathes tissues and circulates in the lymphatic system. Lymphomas are cancers that occur in this lymphatic system and B-Cell lymphomas—also called non-Hodgkin's lymphomas—include follicular lymphomas, small non-cleaved cell lymphomas (Burkitt's lymphoma), marginal zone lymphomas (MALT lymphomas), small lymphocytic lymphomas, large cell lymphomas and also mantle cell lymphomas.
Mantle cell lymphoma accounts for 5% to 10% of all lymphomas diagnosed and 5% of B-cell lymphomas. There are three subsets of MCL cells: the mantle zone type, the nodular type, and the blastic or blastoid type. These various types often occur together to some degree, and approximately 30% to 40% of diagnoses are of mixed mantle and nodular type. As MCL develops further, the non-cancerous mantle centers also become invaded by cancerous cells. In about 20% of these cases, the cells become larger, and of the blastic (immature) type.
Extensive debates are ongoing concerning the grade of this cancer. European classification used to classify it as a low-grade cancer because it is initially slow-growing, while American classification considered it intermediate based on patients' shorter average survival rate. The combined European-American classification (REAL), is still discussing the status of mantle cell lymphoma. This is due to the mixed nature of MCL cells. Blastic type-MCL seems to be considered as a high-grade cancer because it spreads at about the rate of other lymphomas belonging to that category. The studies currently attempting to describe the precise nature of these cells will be key to any general agreement that is finally reached.
Author Info: Monique Laberge Ph.D., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Cancer, 2002This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your healthcare provider. Please consult a healthcare professional with any health concerns you may have.
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