Aggressive adult T cell leukemia/lymphoma: the tip of the iceberg of the hidden human T cell lymphotropic virus type 1 infection burden in nonendemic countries

Ingrid Lopez-Lerma, Estrella Caballero, Carlos Palacio, Vicente Garcia-Patos
AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses 2013, 29 (4): 704-8
Adult T cell leukemia/lymphoma has only rarely been reported in Europe. We aimed to determine the clinical characteristics and outcome of adult T cell leukemia/lymphoma patients in a nonendemic country. Cases of adult T cell leukemia/lymphoma managed at Hospital Universitari Vall d'Hebron, Barcelona, Spain were reviewed. Information on the foreign population living in Spain, according to country of origin, was obtained using official published data from the National Statistics Institute. Three patients were diagnosed with adult T cell leukemia/lymphoma between 2003 and 2010. Two cases were of the acute subtype and one case of the lymphoma subtype. Two patients were female and the mean age at presentation was 41.3 years. Patients originated from three different countries. The characteristics of the attended patients include widespread enlargement of the lymph nodes, a variety of multiple extranodal involvements, bone marrow infiltration, and a high incidence of infections including latent parasitic infections. Prototypic adult T cell leukemia/lymphoma presenting with high white cell counts, flower cells, and hypercalcemia was not observed. Regarding therapy, one patient received chemotherapy alone and two subjects combined first-line therapy including antiviral drugs. Of the three patients, two are dead (mean survival time 6 months) and one has been lost to follow-up. We estimate that at least 15,000 people living in Spain are infected with human T cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1). Adult T cell leukemia/lymphoma is a heterogeneous disease that often presents without distinguishing or prototypical features. A high index of clinical suspicion is essential for diagnosis. Several epidemiological differences have been observed in different countries. Today, HTLV-1 infection is highly underdiagnosed.

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