Natural history of adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma and approaches to therapy

Oncogene. 2005 Sep 5;24(39):6047-57. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1208979.


After cell-to-cell transmission, HTLV-I increases its viral genome by de novo infection and proliferation of infected cells. Proliferation of infected cells is clonal and persistent in vivo. During the carrier state, infected cells are selected in vivo by the host's immune system, the genetic and epigenetic environment of proviral integration sites, and other factors. In leukemic cells, tax gene expression is frequently impaired by genetic and epigenetic mechanisms. Such loss of Tax expression enables ATL cells to escape the host immune system. On the other hand, ATL cells acquire the ability to proliferate without Tax by intracellular genetic and epigenetic changes. Despite advances in support and the development of novel treatment agents, the prognosis for ATLL remains poor. A number of therapies, however, do appear to improve prognosis compared to CHOP (VEPA). These include interferon-alpha plus zidovudine (probably after 1-2 cycles of CHOP), intensive chemotherapy as in LSG-15 with G-CSF support and Allo-SCT (which includes the potential for cure). Emerging novel approaches include HDAC inhibitors, monoclonal antibodies, and proteasome inhibitors. Comparison between different therapeutic approaches is complicated by the range of natural history of ATLL, different recruitments of naïve-to-therapy, refractory or relapsed patients, and variations in the reporting of outcome that frequently excludes difficult-to-evaluate patients. Moreover, results from relatively small proof-of-principle studies have not been extended with randomized, controlled trials. As a result, currently, there is no clear evidence to support the value of any particular treatment approach over others. To avoid further unnecessary patient suffering and to identify optimal therapy as rapidly as possible, large randomized, controlled trials encompassing multicenter, international collaborations will be necessary.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Genes, pX
  • Genome, Viral
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus 1 / genetics
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus 1 / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia-Lymphoma, Adult T-Cell / drug therapy
  • Leukemia-Lymphoma, Adult T-Cell / immunology
  • Leukemia-Lymphoma, Adult T-Cell / physiopathology*
  • Leukemia-Lymphoma, Adult T-Cell / therapy*
  • Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Transplantation, Homologous
  • Virus Replication