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Difference Between B-Cell and T-Cell Lymphoma

Vet Talks 4 min read

When your furkiddo is diagnosed with lymphoma, it is heartbreaking and it can be difficult to understand the different types of lymphoma. The type of lymphoma your pet is diagnosed with may affect the treatment options and symptoms they will experience. To help make it easier, let’s break down the difference between B-cell and T-cell lymphoma.

The immune system is made up of cells that form lines of defense to fight foreign threats like bacteria and viruses. In this “defense army” we have the innate immune cells and the adaptive immune cells. T-cells and B-cells are also called lymphocytes and they are part of the adaptive immune cells which travel around the body through the lymphatic system.

But what do B-cell and T-cell lymphoma do?

Lymphoma is one of the most commonly diagnosed neoplasms in cats and it accounts for almost ¼ of all neoplasms diagnosed in dogs.

The B-cells fight bacteria and viruses by producing antigen-specific immunoglobulin (Ig) directed against these invasive pathogens. These Ig’s are also known as antibodies and they attach themselves onto the surface of the invading cells and mark them for destruction by other immune cells. In some cases, they can also kill these cells themselves. 

When it comes to the T-cells, we have two main types: Helper T-cells and Natural killer T-cells (NKT). They are called T cells because they are predominantly produced in the thymus, an extremely important organ of the immune system.

The “Helper T-cells” stimulate B-cells to produce antibodies to fight against external threats and also help killer cells to develop. The Natural Killer T-cells (NKT) will directly kill cells that have already been infected by a foreign invader. These T-cells also send an alert to the rest of the immune system when they need to create a response. 

What is Lymphoma?

Lymphoma is the name given to a malignant trans­formation and growth of differentiated lymphocytes in tissues like lymph nodes, visceral organs, and bone marrow. It is one of the most commonly diagnosed neoplasms in cats and it accounts for almost ¼ of all neoplasms diagnosed in dogs. The most common types of lymphoma are mediastinal, multicentric, extra-nodal, and alimentary lymphoma, which targets mainly the gastrointestinal tract but it can also involve lymph nodes, liver, and spleen. This is the most common anatomical form of lymphoma seen in pets. 

lymphoma cells, is a cancer of the lymphatic system, a monoclonal B-cell tumor. The difference between b-cell and t-cell lymphoma.
Burkitt’s lymphoma cells, is a cancer of the lymphatic system, a monoclonal B-cell tumor, 3D illustration

How Different Types of Lymphoma Can Affect Your Pet

There are many ways to classify a lymphoma and the many subtypes can be defined according to the histological grade (low, intermediate, or high), cell size (small or large), and phenotype (T or B) of the neoplastic lymphocytes.  

When it comes to the alimentary form there are two types of classification: the “mucosal lymphomas” which are usually low-grade forms and are predominantly made of small T-cell type. However, most of the cases of high-grade alimentary lymphomas are composed of small or large cells that can be either B- or T-cell types. The gastrointestinal tract has the largest population of lymphoid and accessory immune cells in the body and therefore, it is a common target for lymphoma.

There are different types of B-cell lymphomas, which will originate in the B-lymphocytes and can be either slow-growing or fast and aggressive. The most common types of B-cell lymphomas are diffuse large and mediastinal B-cell lymphoma. 

In cats positive for Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), it’s important to point out that this virus infects the lymphoid tissue, intestines, and bone marrow and is suspected to be a huge risk factor in the development of leukemia and lymphoma in cats, particularly T-cell lymphoma with a mediastinal location.

Cytologic examination of tissues affected by lymphoma is normally a highly effective method of diagnosis, especially in canine lymphoma and histopathology is commonly required for definitive diagnosis in both dogs and cats. 

How To Support Pets With B-cell and T-cell Lymphoma

Regardless of the subtype, the successful treatment of lymphoma can include chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and even surgery in most cases. Generally speaking, the main goal of the therapy is to achieve long-term remission and good quality of life for the pet. NHV supplements can provide good support for pets fighting lymphoma of any kind and here are some recommendations that can be helpful:

Felimm: This formula encourages detoxification of the lymphatic system, helps strengthen the immune system, helps fight infections, stimulates appetite, improves energy levels, and helps combat upper respiratory tract infections. Felimm is also our main support for viral infections such as FIV and FeLV which can leave the cat more prone to develop lymphoma. 

Yucca: Corticosteroids are often used in lymphoma treatment and Yucca stimulates the body to produce its own natural corticosteroids. Yucca is formulated and dosed specifically to be safe for long-term use in pets and it has been used successfully to help control discomfort and inflammation in the body.

Natures Immuno: a blend of mushrooms known for their extensive health benefits. These mushrooms are reported to help improve the body’s ability to produce white blood cells, it can be used as an adjunct with chemotherapy, it supports the immune system and helps fight against viral infections. It’s very beneficial as anti-cancer and anti-tumor support. It’s useful for cardiovascular, liver, kidney, diabetic, and endocrine health as well and helps promote general well-being. One of the mushrooms in this formula is the Turkey Tail mushroom. Studies have shown that it is beneficial for a wide variety of cancers, including mammary gland cancer and lymphoma. Researchers believe that Turkey Tail mushrooms contain properties that fight cancer while also helping to strengthen the immune system.

Petomega 3: Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils that can be beneficial to a pet with lymphoma. They not only prevent weight loss, but they can also decrease inflammation and may inhibit metastasis as well

Let us be a part of your pet’s journey to a healthier life. In case you have any questions or concerns, our team of pet experts will be more than happy to help.

Dr. Aline Dias DVM

Dr. Aline Dias DVM

Dr. Aline Dias is a veterinary graduate from the Federal University of Pelotas, Brazil. She worked for five years with research in Bacteriology and Virology fields, but she found her true passion in feline medicine. As soon as Dr. Aline immigrated to Canada, she adopted two kittens: Chilli and Keke. Dr. Aline is now a full-time crazy cat lady and when she’s not working at NHV she spends her time spoiling her furbabies or going for walks at the beach.

Published: November 11, 2020

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