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Blastic Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cell Neoplasm

For personalized disease and treatment information, or to learn about clinical trials, contact one of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's (LLS's) Information Specialists at (800) 955-4572.


Blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm (BPDCN) was previously known as natural killer (NK) cell leukemia/lymphoma. As understanding of the biology and origin of this malignancy has improved, the World Health Organization (WHO) established the term blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm (BPDCN) in 2008. BPDCN is currently listed as its own category in the 2016 World Health Organization revision. Most often, BPDCN presents with features of both lymphoma and leukemia. There are little data about BPDCN and there is no established treatment. The average age at diagnosis is 60 to 70 years. There are more men than women who are diagnosed with BPDCN.

Diagnosis and Incidence

Blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm (BPDCN) is very often misdiagnosed and under-reported. Diagnosing a patient with BPDCN is difficult.

The skin is the most frequently involved site of disease (80 percent of cases). However, BPDCN usually progresses with bone marrow involvement and a decrease in red blood cell, white blood cell and platelet counts. The lymph nodes and spleen may also be involved. Rashes without symptoms can also occur.

Common misdiagnoses for BPCDN include non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), acute myeloid leukemia (AML), leukemia cutis (a nonspecific term used for cutaneous [skin] manifestation of any type of leukemia), melanoma (a type of skin cancer), and lupus erythematosus (chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when your body's immune system attacks your own tissues and organs).

Current Treatment and Outcomes

Tagraxofusp-erzs (ElzonrisTM) is approved for the treatment of BPDCN in adult and pediatric patients two years and older.

Treatment sometimes includes therapies that are used for AML, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), or lymphoma.

The length for which a patient responds to these treatments is usually short. After a relapse, second remissions with conventional chemotherapy are difficult to achieve. Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant (allo-HCT), especially if offered in first remission, may result in longer remissions. The current recommendation is for BPDCN patients to be evaluated for an allo-HCT as soon as possible and to begin searching for a donor.

Research and Evolving Novel Treatments

The length of remission from current treatments is unknown. Patients should consider clinical trials as treatment options. Currently, there are a few clinical trials for BPDCN.

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