Natural killer-like T-cell lymphomas: Aggressive lymphomas of T-large granular lymphocytes

William R. Macon, Michael E. Williams, John P. Greer, Richard D. Hammer, Alan D. Glick, Robert D. Collins, John B. Cousar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

168 Scopus citations


Natural killer (NK)-like T cells are major histocompatibility complex- unrestricted cytotoxic T cells that are surface CD3-positive, express NK- cell antigens, and rearrange their T-cell receptor. Most neoplasms arising from this T-cell subpopulation have been a chronic lymphoproliferative disease referred to as T-large granular lymphocyte (LGL) leukemia. Only 10 NK-like T-cell lymphomas have been described in detail previously; this study presents the clinicopathologic features of six others and distinguishes these lymphomas from T-LGL leukemia. All patients presented with B-symptoms and often had marked hepatosplenomegaly without significant peripheral lymphadenopathy. Four of the six patients were immunosuppressed. All had CD3, CD8, CD56-positive tumors, presumably of hepatosplenic (n = 3), intestinal (n = 1), pulmonary (n = 1), or nodal (n = 1) origin. Three patients had lymphomatous bone marrow infiltrates, and four had peripheral blood involvement by neoplastic large lymphocytes, some of which had a blastic appearance or resembled virocytes. Azurophilic granules, ultrastructurally corresponding to cytoplasmic dense core and/or double density granules, were seen in all cases. T-cell clonality was shown in five tumors by Southern blot analysis, and three had abnormal karyotypes. Two untreated patients died 20 days after presentation, and three patients who received combination chemotherapy died within 5 months of presentation. One patient remains in complete remission 22 months after treatment. These findings suggest NK-like T-cell lymphomas are aggressive, are clinicopathologically distinct from T- LGL leukemia, and should be in the differential diagnosis of extranodal T- cell lymphoproliferations, including those in immunosuppressed patients. Furthermore, the LGL morphology, phenotype, and tissue distribution of some NK-like T-cell lymphomas suggest they may arise from thymic-independent T cells of the hepatic sinusoids and intestinal mucosa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1474-1483
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Immunology
  • Hematology
  • Cell Biology


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