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Am J Surg Pathol. 1999 May;23(5):571-81.

Aggressive cutaneous NK and NK-like T-cell lymphomas: clinicopathologic, immunohistochemical, and molecular analyses of 12 cases.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Stanford University School of Medicine, California, USA.


Natural killer (NK) and NK-like T-cell lymphomas are rare hematolymphoid malignancies that predominate in the upper aerodigestive system. They also involve other extranodal sites, including the skin. Primary cutaneous manifestations of NK and NK-like T-cell lymphomas are uncommon, and the clinicopathologic features are poorly understood. We have studied 12 patients of varied ethnic backgrounds with CD56-positive lymphomas in the skin. Six patients subsequently progressed to disseminated disease. These lymphomas showed the following immunophenotype: CD56+, CD43+, TCRb-, CD3-/+, CD20-, CD30-/+, CD4-, and CD8-. Two cases exhibited T-cell receptor gene rearrangements supporting a T-cell origin for these lymphomas, whereas the remaining 10 cases were likely derived from NK cells. Our results show inconsistent association of these lymphomas with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), the multidrug resistance phenotype, and expression of P53. In addition, we found a previously unreported correlation between lymphomas harboring EBV mRNA and the expression of the multidrug resistance phenotype. These lymphomas were aggressive and were associated with rapid clinical progression, treatment failure, multiple relapses, and an average survival of 15 months from the time of diagnosis. Our results indicate the importance of recognizing this disease as a distinct subset of aggressive cutaneous lymphomas that may be diagnosed on the basis of morphology, immunophenotype, and gene rearrangement studies.

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