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Blood. 2011 Aug 18;118(7):1736-45. doi: 10.1182/blood-2011-03-345702. Epub 2011 Jun 14.

How I treat adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon.


Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL) is an aggressive malignancy of mature activated T cells caused by human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I. ATL carries a bad prognosis because of intrinsic chemoresistance and severe immunosuppression. In acute ATL, Japanese trials demonstrated that although combinations of chemotherapy improved response rate, they failed to achieve a significant impact on survival. Patients with chronic and smoldering ATL have a better prognosis, but long-term survival is poor when these patients are managed with a watchful-waiting policy or with chemotherapy. Recently, a worldwide meta-analysis revealed that the combination of zidovudine and IFN-α is highly effective in the leukemic subtypes of ATL and should be considered as standard first-line therapy in that setting. This combination has changed the natural history of the disease through achievement of significantly improved long-term survival in patients with smoldering and chronic ATL as well as a subset of patients with acute ATL. ATL lymphoma patients still benefit from chemotherapy induction with concurrent or sequential antiretroviral therapy with zidovudine/IFN. To prevent relapse, clinical trials assessing consolidative targeted therapies such as arsenic/IFN combination or novel monoclonal antibodies are needed. Finally, allogeneic BM transplantation should be considered in suitable patients.

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