Lymphoblastic lymphoma is a cancer
of immature lymphocytes, cells of the immune system, called lymphoblasts. It is
a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Lymphoblastic lymphoma primarily affects
children and accounts for about 35% of all non-Hodgkin lymphomas in children.
Children with lymphoblastic lymphoma are treated at
Dana-Farber/Boston Children's through the Lymphoma
Program in our Hematologic Malignancies Center.
One of the top pediatric cancer centers worldwide, Dana-Farber/Boston
Children’s combines the expertise of a premier cancer center – Dana-Farber
Cancer Institute – and a world-class children’s hospital – Boston Children’s
Hospital – to provide internationally-renowned care for children with cancers
of the blood and immune system.
The type of lymphoblast that causes
lymphoblastic lymphoma can be either a T-lymphoblast, causing T-lymphoblastic
lymphoma (T-LL), or a B-lymphoblast, causing B-lymphoblastic lymphoma (B-LL).
These are the same type of cells
that cause the most common forms of childhood leukemia: B-acute lymphoblasticleukemia (B-ALL) and T-acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL).
The difference between
lymphoblastic lymphoma and lymphoblastic leukemia is the percent of cancer
cells that are present in the bone marrow at diagnosis. Whereas lymphoblastic
lymphoma may present only with enlarged lymph nodes and no cancer cells in the
blood or bone marrow, lymphoblastic leukemia usually has cancer cells visible
in the blood and has more than 25% of the bone marrow replaced by cancer cells.
T-lymphoblastic lymphoma is more
common than B-lymphoblastic lymphoma and often starts in the thymus, located in
a part of the upper chest called the mediastinum. This type of lymphoma may
present itself with symptoms of cough, breathing difficulty or swelling of the
head and neck due to the tumor pressing on the windpipe or large veins above
the heart. T-LL can grow very quickly; making the diagnosis and starting
treatment may be an emergency.
B-lymphoblastic lymphoma often
presents in the lymph nodes, skin or bone and usually is more slow-growing than
Both types of lymphoblastic
lymphoma can spread to all parts of the body, including the fluid around the
brain and spinal cord (cerebrospinal fluid or CSF) and in boys, to the testes. Bone
marrow may have cancer cells evident, and if there are more than 25% cancer
cells in the bone marrow, then it is called leukemia instead of lymphoma.
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia and lymphoblastic lymphoma are
treated with the same treatment regimens, and the cure rate for both is high.
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