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What is the difference between B-cell and T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia?

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Quick Answer

B-cell and T-cell prolymphocytic leukemias are blood cancers in which the body produces a great many abnormal, large and immature white blood cells called prolymphocytes, explains the Canadian Cancer Society. One concerns a lymphocyte called the B-cell that matures into a cell that produces antibodies, reports MedicineNet. T-cells are also white blood cells that mature in the thymus gland, and some directly attack pathogens.

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Full Answer

The prognosis for B-cell prolymphocytic leukemia is much better than that for T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia, though both cancers are aggressive, notes the Canadian Cancer Society. In one study, the survival rate for B-cell patients was 63 percent after three years, 56 percent after five years and 35 percent after 10 years, according to the National Institutes of Health. These patients received treatment with chemotherapy drugs such as chlorambucil, prednisone and cyclophosphamide.

On the other hand, the median survival rate for patients with T-cell leukemia was about seven months, reports Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings. The disease is not as responsive to chemotherapy drugs as B-cell leukemia. B-cell leukemia is also much more common.

A patient with T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia is also more at risk for an enlarged liver and enlarged lymph nodes than one with the B-cell leukemia, explains the Canadian Cancer Society. Leukemia cells also occur in the patient's skin with T-cell leukemia.

Both types of prolymphocytic leukemia are quite rare and don't form tumors, according to the Canadian Cancer Society. A doctor gives a diagnosis of prolymphocytic leukemia when the abnormal blood cells make up more than 55 percent of the patient's blood.

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