Anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) is a rare type of Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph system, part of our immune system. Non-Hodgkins lymphoma involves abnormal growth of white blood cells, either T cells or B cells. Anaplastic large cell lymphoma is aggressive cancer that usually involves the T-cells. Cancer cells in ALCL can be identified by their appearance under the microscope and by the presence of a tumor marker called CD30 or Ki-1.
There are two types of ALCL, a type that affects mainly the skin (cutaneous ALCL) and a type that affects other body organs (systmic ALCL). Systemic ALCL also has two types, ALK-positive (anaplastic lymphoma kinase) and ALK-negative. ALK-positive ALCL occurs more often in children and young adults. ALK-negative ALCL tends to occur in older adults.
The symptoms of cutaneous ALCL include red skin lesions that break open and do not heal. Sometimes cutaneous ALCL is also found in the lymph nodes. The symptoms of systemic ALCL include fever, night sweats, and weight loss (B symptoms). Cancer can be found in the bone, soft tissue, spleen, liver, and skin. The cause of ALCL is unknown. One type of ALK-negative ALCL has been associated with breast implants. ALCL is diagnosed by a biopsy of the tumor or abnormal skin and examination of the tumor cells under a microscope. Additional testing including PET scans, CT scans, MRI, and a bone marrow biopsy can tell doctors if cancer has spread to other organs.
ALCL is treated using chemotherapy, and a stem-cell transplant for people with more aggressive cancer or for ALCL that has come back. In addition, there are newer treatments that target the cancer cells directly and have been very effective. In general, ALK-positive ALCL has a better long-term outlook than ALK-negative ALCL