Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinaemia treatment
How is Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinaemia treated?
Treatment of WM depends on its severity and the symptoms you are experiencing.
Some patients with stable disease and without any troubling symptoms may not require any treatment. Plasmapheresis, where a machine removes the excess antibody from a patient’s blood (similar to dialysis), may help relieve the symptoms experienced by WM.
If the presence of abnormal lymphocytes is numerous enough to require treatment, chemotherapy will be given, with or without plasmapheresis initially. Chemotherapy kills cells that multiply quickly, such as the abnormal lymphocyte cells. Chemotherapy is usually given in several cycles (or courses) of treatment with a rest period of a few weeks in between each cycle.
Biological therapy (treatment that stimulates the immune system to fight cancer) is also being used to treat WM. Promising results have been seen when chemotherapy and biological therapy are used in combination. People presenting with high levels of IgM and hyperviscosity syndrome (thickening of the blood) are likely to undergo plasmapheresis. Plasmapheresis circulates blood through a machine in order to remove the thick IgM protein-containing plasma, and replace it with a plasma substitute.
Other treatment for WM may include surgical removal of the spleen (splenectomy), red blood cell transfusions, radiation therapy, clinical trials, and depending on a person’s age, stem cell transplantation may be an option.
Treatment is aimed at controlling not curing the disease. The incidence of WM is still quite rare and there is therefore little information available comparing the effectiveness of different treatment options. Your specialist will discuss all treatment options and their side effects and benefits with you prior to commencing treatment.