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Gan To Kagaku Ryoho. 1987 Jun;14(6 Pt 1):1763-71.

[Overview of ATL (adult T-cell leukemia) research].

[Article in Japanese]


ATL is a unique T-cell malignancy first described by Takatsuki and colleagues in 1970s. We estimate that more than 300 patients a year have been detected in the endemic areas of Kyushu, Japan. The surface phenotype of ATL cells characterized by monoclonal antibodies is T3+, T4+, T8-, T11+ and Tac+. In all cases the serum is positive for anti-HTLV-I antibodies and the ATL cells contain the proviral DNA of HTLV-I. Variations in the clinical features of atypical ATL suggested a division of the spectrum of ATL into five types: acute; chronic; smoldering; crisis; and lymphoma. Typical ATL takes an acute course. The survival time is short, with 50% mortality within approximately 5 months. In general a poor prognosis is indicated by the elevation of serum lactate dehydrogenase, calcium, and bilirubin, as well as by high WBC. Smoldering ATL is characterized by the presence of a few abnormal cells (0.5%-3%) in the peripheral blood over a long period. Crisis in chronic or smoldering ATL means the progression of the disease to acute ATL. The lymphoma type of ATL is considered to be a form of T-cell-type non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in which malignant cells contain proviral DNA of HTLV-I. Screening of the sera from healthy adults for presence of the anti-HTLV-I antibodies revealed that 3.6% of healthy individuals in Kumamoto Prefecture, which is located in the middle of Kyushu, were HTLV-I carriers. Family studies showed that the routes of natural infection of HTLV-I are from mother to child and also from husband to wife. The borderline between the healthy carrier state and smoldering ATL remains unclear. Smoldering ATL is frequently diagnosed in patients with fungus infection of the skin, chronic lymphadenopathy, interstitial pneumonitis, chronic renal failure and strongyloidiasis. Five patients with ATL refractory to conventional chemotherapeutic agents were treated with 2'-deoxy-coformycin (DCF), a potent inhibitor of adenosine deaminase. Two patients showed a good response, and three were resistant to DCF. In addition our experiences with a concurrence of lymphoma-type ATL in three sisters and spontaneous remissions in a patients with chronic ATL will be referred.

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