Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is a rare but aggressive type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) that forms in areas of the lymph nodes called the mantle zone. MCL occurs in roughly 6% of all NHL cases in the United States.
Survival rates for mantle cell lymphoma are lower than most other types of cancer. However, cancer research is growing by leaps and bounds and the overall survival rate of cancer patients has improved significantly compared to a few years ago.
MCL is rarely curable with even standard treatment, including chemotherapy. According to most of the available evidence, it fails in just 18 months. Relapses are also common.
- The median survival rate of people with MCL is about 3-5 years. This means only 50% of patients can expect to live beyond 3-5 years.
- The 10-year survival rate of MCL is anywhere between 5%-10%. This means only 5-10 out of 100 patients can expect to live for 10 years and beyond.
However, one study where survival rates of younger patients (ages 65 and younger) with MCL were evaluated from 1995-2016 suggested that the median survival time has increased up to 8 years. Researchers have attributed this significant increase to an intensive regimen of chemotherapy in clinical trials. The positive effect on survival rates was observed more in patients who were in the advanced stage of MCL.
What are the signs and symptoms of mantle cell lymphoma?
Many patients with mantle cell lymphoma may not notice signs and symptoms during the early stages of the disease. Most seek medical attention for persistent, painless swelling of lymph nodes around the neck and throat. They may have enlargement of other lymph nodes in the following areas:
- Elbows or shoulders
- Arms (axillae)
- Pelvic regions
Other common signs and symptoms include:
6 treatment options for mantle cell lymphoma
Treatment of MCL is difficult because nearly 70% of patients get diagnosed at stage IV. By this time, MCL has already spread to most parts of the body.
Depending on the progression of the MCL, doctors may suggest any of the following approaches:
Some patients with MCL have a slow-growing cancer called indolent mantle cell lymphoma. In such cases, the wait-and-watch approach may be suggested, which can help patients avoid the side effects of standard cancer treatments. The patient will be monitored over 6 months to 1 year to check the growth and spread of the cancer. Treatment will be initiated accordingly.
Chemotherapy involves the administration of drugs in the form of injections or oral pills. These drugs work to destroy the cancerous cells and help shrink the tumor. With MCL, a combination of chemotherapy drugs is used. The most common medication is rituximab, which is administered intravenously.
Immunotherapy involves using the patient’s immune system to fight the cancer. Some drugs attach to the surface of cancer cells while others enhance the natural ability of the patient’s immune system cells to work against the cancer.
4. Radiation therapy
5. Targeted therapy
Targeted therapy is typically reserved for patients whose MCL comes back after chemotherapy and immunotherapy. It involves using drugs (in the form of oral pills) that target specific processes or molecules in cancer cells.
6. Stem cell transplant
Stem cell transplant is the last resort for patients for whom other treatments fail to work. It involves using the bone marrow of the patient or a donor to harvest new cells that can produce blood cells. Once the stem cell transplant is successful and the patient’s body can produce enough blood cells, high-dose chemotherapy is used to fight the existing MCL.
Wu H, Wang J, Zhang X, et al. Survival Trends in Patients Under Age 65 Years With Mantle Cell Lymphoma, 1995-2016: A SEER-Based Analysis. Front Oncol. 2020 Oct 20;10:588314.
Schachter K, Karmali R. Mantle Cell Lymphoma. National Organization for Rare Disorders. https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/mantle-cell-lymphoma/
Abbasi MR. Mantle Cell Lymphoma. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/203085-overview#a10
Lymphoma Research Foundation. Mantle Cell Lymphoma. https://lymphoma.org/aboutlymphoma/nhl/mcl/
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