Learn About Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia

What is the definition of Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia?

Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM) is a cancer of the B lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell). WM is associated with the overproduction of proteins called IgM antibodies.

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What are the alternative names for Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia?

Waldenström macroglobulinemia; Macroglobulinemia - primary; Lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma; Monoclonal macroglobulinemia; Waldenström macroglobulinemia

What are the causes of Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia?

WM is a result of a condition called lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma. This is a cancer of the white blood cells, in which the B immune cells start dividing rapidly. The exact cause of too much production of the IgM antibody is unknown. Hepatitis C may increase the risk of WM. Gene mutations are often found in the malignant B cells.

Production of excess IgM antibodies can cause several types of problems:

  • Hyperviscosity, which causes the blood to become too thick. This can make it harder for blood to flow through small blood vessels.
  • Neuropathy, or nerve damage, when the IgM antibody reacts with nerve tissue.
  • Anemia, when the IgM antibody binds to red blood cells.
  • Kidney disease, when the IgM antibody deposits in kidney tissue.
  • Cryoglobulinemia and vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels) when the IgM antibody forms immune complexes with cold exposure.

WM is very rare. Most people with this condition are over 65 years of age.

What are the symptoms of Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia?

Symptoms of WM may include any of the following:

  • Bleeding of the gums and nosebleeds
  • Blurred or decreased vision
  • Bluish skin in the fingers after cold exposure
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Easy bruising of the skin
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Numbness, tingling, or burning pain in the hands, feet, fingers, toes, ears, or nose
  • Rash
  • Swollen glands
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Vision loss in one eye
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What are the current treatments for Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia?

Some people with WM who have increased IgM antibodies do not have symptoms. This condition is known as smoldering WM. No treatment is needed other than careful follow-up.

In people with symptoms, treatment aims at decreasing the symptoms and the risk of developing organ damage. There is no current standard treatment. Your health care provider may suggest that you participate in a clinical trial.

Plasmapheresis removes IgM antibodies from the blood. It also controls the symptoms caused by blood thickening.

Medicines may include corticosteroids, a combination of chemotherapy medicines and the monoclonal antibody to B cells, rituximab.

Autologous stem cell transplant may be recommended for some people with otherwise good health.

People who have a low number of red or white blood cells or platelets may need transfusions or antibiotics.

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What is the outlook (prognosis) for Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia?

The average survival is about 5 years. Some people live more than 10 years.

In some people, the disorder may produce few symptoms and progress slowly.

What are the possible complications of Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia?

Complications of WM may include:

  • Changes in mental function, possibly leading to coma
  • Heart failure
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding or malabsorption
  • Vision problems
  • Hives
When should I contact a medical professional for Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia?

Contact your provider if symptoms of WM develop.

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What are the latest Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia Clinical Trials?
A Phase 1 Study of Oral LOXO-338, a Selective BCL-2 Inhibitor, in Patients With Advanced Hematologic Malignancies

Summary: The purpose of this study is to find out whether the study drug, LOXO-338, is safe and effective in patients with advanced blood cancer. Patients must have already received standard therapy. The study may last up to approximately 3 years.

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Natural History Study of Monoclonal B Cell Lymphocytosis (MBL), Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia/Small Lymphocytic Lymphoma (CLL/SLL), Lymphoplasmacytic Lymphoma (LPL)/Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia (WM), and Splenic Marginal Zone Lymphoma (SMZL)

Background: The development of new technologies now allow scientists to investigate the molecular basis and clinical manifestations of monoclonal B cell lymphocytosis (MBL), chronic lymphocytic leukemia(CLL)/small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL), lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma (LPL)/Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia (WM), and splenic marginal zone lymphoma (SMZL). Applying these methods in a natural history study can clar...

What are the Latest Advances for Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia?
A Canadian Perspective on the Treatment of Waldenström Macroglobulinemia.
Coming of Age for BTK Inhibitor Therapy: A Review of Zanubrutinib in Waldenström Macroglobulinemia.
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CT-329 CD19-Directed Chimeric Antigen Receptor T Cell Therapy in Waldenström Macroglobulinemia: Initial Experience in Two Clinical Trials.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: April 19, 2022
Published By: Diane M. Horowitz, MD, Rheumatology and Internal Medicine, Northwell Health, Great Neck, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Kapoor P, Ansell SM, Fonseca R, et al. Diagnosis and management of Waldenström macroglobulinemia: Mayo stratification of macroglobulinemia and risk-adapted therapy (mSMART) guidelines 2016. JAMA Oncol. 2017;3(9):1257-1265. PMID: 28056114 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28056114/.

Rajkumar SV. Plasma cell disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 178.

Treon SP, Castillo JJ, Hunter ZR, Merlini G. Waldenström macroglobulinemia/lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ, Silberstein LE, et al, eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 87.