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Leukemia. 2004 Apr;18(4):763-70.

Aggressive natural killer-cell leukemia revisited: large granular lymphocyte leukemia of cytotoxic NK cells.

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  • 1Division of Molecular Medicine, Aichi Cancer Center, Nagoya, Japan.


Aggressive natural killer-cell leukemia (ANKL) is a rare form of large granular lymphocyte leukemia, which is characterized by a systemic proliferation of NK cells. The clinical features of 22 ANKL cases were analyzed. Hepatomegaly (64%), splenomegaly (55%) and lymphadenopathy (41%) were also frequently observed. Leukemic cells were identified as CD1-, CD2+, surface CD3-, CD4-, CD5-, CD7+, CD8+/-, CD10-, CD11b+/-, CD13-, CD16+, CD19-, CD20-, CD25-, CD33(-), CD34-, CD38+, CD56+, CD122+, HLA-DR+ and TCR-. Two of the 16 cases examined for CD57 were positive and three of the seven cases examined for cytoplasmic CD3. Epstein-Barr virus was detected in the tumor cells of 11 of the 13 cases examined. No common cytogenetic abnormalities were identified and 6q anomaly was detected in only one. Three of 13 patients treated with chemotherapy containing anthracycline/anthraquinone attained complete remission, in contrast to none of the eight who were treated with regimens without anthracycline. Although the overall prognosis was poor with a median survival of 58 days, those who attained remission showed better prognosis (P=0.005). These findings suggest that ANKL is an entity of mature cytotoxic NK-cell neoplasms with distinct phenotype and disease presentations. Intensive treatment for ANKL may result in a better prognosis.

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