Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) facts

  • Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is a relatively rare cancer of the lymphoid cells that arises from the outer rim or mantle lymphoid follicle.
  • The cause of MCL is unknown, although around 85% of patients have a genetic abnormality known as a translocation, resulting in the overproduction of cyclin D1, a protein that drives cell growth.
  • The risk factors for MCL are not clear and may be related to environmental or genetic factors.
  • Signs and symptoms of MCL may include
  • Doctors who treat MCL include one's primary care physician and such specialists as oncologists, hematologists, radiologists, and surgeons.
  • There are four stages of MCL, but most patients (70%) are only diagnosed after they are in stage IV, the stage with the worst prognosis with MCL spread to other organs.
  • MCL is staged and diagnosed by examination of needle aspiration of lymph nodes and/or bone marrow biopsies along with imaging studies.
  • MCL is treated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and combination methods, which may also include surgical debulking; currently, there is no cure for MCL.
  • Complications of MCL include short lifespan and death; other complications may be due to treatment protocols using chemotherapy.
  • For most individuals with MCL, the prognosis is only fair to poor.
  • It is not possible to prevent MCL.
  • There are ongoing clinical trials for MCL; some reports in clinical trials suggest there may be better outcomes for this disease in the future.

What is mantle cell lymphoma (MCL)?

Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is a relatively rare cancer of the lymphoid cells; it is termed mantle cell lymphoma because the cancer cells (lymphoma cells) arise from the outer rim or mantle of lymphoid cells that surround a lymphoid follicle. MCL is an aggressive B-cell type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and accounts for about 2%-10% of non-Hodgkin's lymphomas.

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Types of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Mantle Cell Lymphoma

NHL is classified into many different types. Several classification systems exist for NHL, including the Revised European American Lymphoma Classification, which is the foundation for the WHO lymphoma classification. The classifications use cell types and defining other characteristics. Basically there are three large groups: the B cell, T cell, and natural killer cell tumors.

Newer techniques such as immunophenotyping (a way to study the proteins on a cell and identify the precise types of B or T cells that are involved) are used to diagnose and classify lymphomas. This technique is especially useful in the case of B-cell lymphomas.

What causes mantle cell lymphoma?

About 85% of patients with MCL have a characteristic genetic lesion known as a reciprocal translocation, in which short segments of one chromosome are moved to another chromosome. The characteristic change in MCL involves chromosomes 11 and 14 and is called t(11;14). The exchange of chromosomal material occurs at the location of the cyclin D1 gene on chromosome 11; the change causes an overproduction of cyclin D1, a protein that stimulates tumor cell division and growth. This genetic change is considered to be a driver in the behavior of MCL, which likely works together with other genetic defects to cause MCL. In a small number of patients, t(11;14) is not present. In most of these patients without the characteristic translocation, other genetic changes cause excess production of cyclin D1.

What are risk factors for mantle cell lymphoma?

There is a lack of agreement in the medical literature on specific risk factors for MCL, although family history and certain genetic changes have been identified that increase the risk . Males are affected about four times as commonly as females. Blacks and Asians are less likely than whites to develop MCL. Age is a risk factor; the median age of MCL onset is 60 years of age with an age range of 35-85 years.

What are signs and symptoms of mantle cell lymphoma?

Signs and symptoms of MCL may include the following:

  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Generalized enlargement of lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy)
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal distention from an enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)
  • Abdominal decision from enlarged liver (hepatomegaly)
  • Weight loss (in about 40% of patients)
  • Spread of the cancer into other organs (extranodal spread) may produce organ-specific symptoms.

What types of health care professionals diagnose and treat mantle cell lymphoma?

Mantle cell lymphoma is treated mainly by specialists in cancer treatment (oncologists, hematologists, surgeons, and radiologists) in conjunction with one's primary care physician.

What tests do health care professionals use to diagnose mantle cell lymphoma?

Diagnosis is done by needle aspirates of lymph nodes, and staging is done by needle aspirates or biopsies of bone marrow. CT, blood tests, and immunotyping of cancer cells may be done to further delineate spread and other characteristics of your MCL. Testing for overexpression of the cyclin D1 protein and for the presence of the t(11,14) genetic abnormality are also performed.

What are the stages of mantle cell lymphoma?

There are four stages of mantle cell lymphoma. Stage I and stage II describe localized MCL. Many patients are seen by physicians in stage III in which the MCL cancer cells have begun to proliferate outside of the nodes, and 70% percent of patients are first diagnosed in stage IV in which the cancer cells have gone into masses, often replacing lymph nodes and have spread into other body organs.

What is the treatment for mantle cell lymphoma?

Treatment of mantle cell lymphoma is difficult because patients usually are diagnosed in stage IV where the MCL has advanced throughout the body. There are many different therapeutic regimens to treat MCL; most include multiple chemotherapy drug administrations. Rituximab (Rituxan), in combination with other chemotherapy drugs, is typically used to treat patients who have MCL. Rituxan is a monoclonal antibody used to treat different cancers of the lymphoid cells. Newer chemotherapy drugs used for MCL include bortezomib (Velcade). Other treatments include stem cell transplantation and R-hyper-CVAD, a more intensive form of chemotherapy. Some patients may benefit from surgical debulking (removal of tissue to reduce symptoms). There is no cure for MCL; treatments are done to reduce symptoms and/or to increase limited survival time. Patients should speak with their physician team members to decide what treatment options are best.

What are complications of mantle cell lymphoma?

Besides the signs and symptoms caused by mantle cell lymphoma, the major complications of MCL are decreased lifespan and death. Other complications come from treatments, mainly chemotherapy treatment, include the following:

What is the prognosis of mantle cell lymphoma?

MCL has a poor prognosis, even with appropriate therapy. Treatment failures usually are noted in less than 18 months, and the median survival time of individuals with MCL is about two to five years. The 10-year survival rate is only about 5%-10%. However, some researchers claim to have doubled the median survival rate in younger patients (less than 65 years of age) treated with an intensive regimen of chemotherapy in clinical trials.

Is it possible to prevent mantle cell lymphoma?

Currently, there is no known way to prevent the genetic changes that drive MCL.

Are there clinical trials for mantle cell lymphoma?

Yes, there clinical trials for mantle cell lymphoma. For further information and a list of those trials and their locations, please visit

Medically Reviewed on 5/25/2017

Abbasi, M. "Mantle cell lymphoma." Medscape. Feb. 11, 2018. <>.

Lowry, F. "Cure for mantle cell lymphoma within reach says expert." Medscape. Jan. 19, 2016. <>.

Wang, Yu, and Shuangge Ma. "Risk Factors for Etiology and Prognosis of Mantle Cell Lymphoma." Expert Rev Hematol 7.2 April 2014: 233-243. <>.

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