Plasma Cell Leukemia: Definition, Presentation, and Treatment

Curr Oncol Rep. 2019 Jan 28;21(1):8. doi: 10.1007/s11912-019-0754-x.


Purpose of review: We discuss current topics on the definition of plasma cell leukemia and the distinction between plasma cell leukemia and multiple myeloma. Moreover, we review the latest literature on how to treat plasma cell leukemia.

Recent findings: Plasma cell leukemia is clinically and genetically distinct from multiple myeloma. Plasma cell leukemia is defined by the observation in blood of more than 20% clonal plasma cells by differential count of the leucocytes or by counting more than 2 × 109 per liter circulating clonal plasma cells. However, patients with lower levels of circulating plasma cells have the same adverse prognosis, which challenges the disease definition. Survival has improved after implementation of high-dose chemotherapy with stem-cell support, bortezomib, and lenalidomide in the treatment; yet, the prognosis remains poor. The results of allo-transplants have been disappointing. The diagnostic criteria of PCL are currently discussed in the international myeloma community. Despite some improvement in survival, the prognosis remains adverse. New, more targeted treatment modalities, including immunotherapies, will hopefully improve the outcome in the near future.

Keywords: Cytogenetics; Diagnosis; Molecular biology; Plasma cell leukemia; Prognosis; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Plasma Cell / diagnosis*
  • Leukemia, Plasma Cell / therapy*
  • Prognosis