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Mesothelioma Cell Types

Mesothelioma cells come in several different forms. Once an individual is diagnosed with mesothelioma, doctors will try to identify the cell type so that they can better estimate the patient’s life expectancy as well as devise the best treatment plan.

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Types of Mesothelioma Cells

There are several types of cells, depending on the type of mesothelioma and the part of the body where it develops:

  • Epithelial cells – are the most common, comprising 50% to 70% of all malignant mesotheliomas diagnosed. Because it is the least aggressive of the cell types, it generally responds the best to treatment, and offers the best prognosis. Under the microscope, this cell type appears relatively uniform, and is described as having a tubular papillary structure. Each individual cell is cube-shaped and has an easily identifiable nucleus.
  • Sarcomatoid cells – represents 7% to 20% of cases diagnosed, and is the most aggressive subtype. It generally does not respond well to treatment, therefore, prognosis with this cell type is considered poor. The differential diagnosis of sarcomatoid mesothelioma versus other types of sarcoma is more challenging than in the epithelial variant, and chemical staining can be confusing. Microscopic analysis normally shows a spindle cell or storiform structure with elongated nuclei not as apparent as in the epithelial type.
  • Biphasic cells (or mixed type) – is a combination of elements of both the epithelial and sarcomatoid subtypes, with components of each in the same tumor, or found in specific groupings throughout the tumor. Prognosis for biphasic mesothelioma is normally intermediate between the two types. This cell type makes up 20% to 35% of mesotheliomas.

Whether only one cell type is present or a combination of several, the methods of treatment are very similar. There are traditional methods such as chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, and recently there has been further research in to less traditional methods, with many suggesting these types of treatment will have more success.

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