Adult T-Cell Leukemia/Lymphoma

Adult T-cellA type of white blood cell that participates in immune responses by destroying harmful substances or cells. leukemiaDisease generally characterized by the overproduction of abnormal or immature white blood cells that circulate or are present in the blood./lymphoma (ATLL) is a rare and often aggressiveLymphomas that are fast growing and generally need to be treated immediately. Also called intermediate-grade or high-grade lymphomas. (fast-growing) T-cell lymphoma that can be found in the blood (leukemia), lymph nodesSmall bean-shaped glands located in the small vessels of the lymphatic system. There are thousands of lymph nodes located throughout the body, with clusters of them in the neck, under the arms, the chest, abdomen and groin. Lymph nodes filter lymph fluid, trapping and destroying potentially harmful bacteria and viruses. (lymphoma), skin, or multiple areas of the body.

ATLL has been linked to infection with the human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1); however, less than five percent of individuals with HTLV-1 will develop ATLL. The HTLV-1 virus is most common in parts of Japan, the Caribbean, and some areas of South and Central America and Africa. Currently, physicians have no way of predicting which infected patients will develop ATLL.

Subtypes of ATLL

There are four types of ATLL:

  • Acute: This aggressive type of ATLL may develop rapidly and include fatigueA decreased capacity for activity that is often accompanied by feelings of weariness, sleepiness or irritability., skin rash, and enlarged lymphThe watery fluid in the lymph system that contains white blood cells (lymphocytes). nodes in the neck, underarm, or groin.
  • Lymphomatous: This aggressive type of ATLL is found primarily in the lymph nodes but may also cause high white blood cell counts.
  • Chronic: This slow-growing type of ATLL can result in elevated lymphocytesA type of white blood cell. Lymphocytes, carries along by the lymph fluid, are part of the immune system and fight infection. in the blood, enlarged lymph nodes, skin rash or fatigue.
  • Smoldering: This slow-growing type of ATLL is associated with very mild symptoms, such as a few skin lesions.

Depending on the subtype, diagnosis ATLL may require removing a small sample of tumorAn abnormal mass or swelling of tissue, that can occur  anywhere in the body. tissue or abnormal skin tissue called a biopsyRemoval of a small piece of tissue for evaluation under a microscope., and looking at the cells under a microscope.

To learn about treatments under investigation for ATLL, download the Adult T-Cell Leukemia/Lymphoma Fact Sheet.