Introduction: Peripheral T-cell lymphomas (PTCLs) and natural killer (NK) or T-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphomas (NHLs) are a rare and heterogeneous class of diseases with generally poor prognosis. This work intends to provide a focused primer on clinical diagnosis, current treatment regimens, and novel therapeutic approaches. The recent WHO classification has defined 18 different subtypes of PTCL and NK T-cell lymphomas. Diagnosis is mainly based on histology, flow-cytometric analysis of surface molecules in the blood and bone marrow, cytogenetics/fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), and T-cell receptor (TCR) rearrangement. Staging as well as follow-up diagnostic procedures rely on imaging techniques such as computerized tomography (CT) and positron emission tomography (PET). Current chemotherapeutic regimens such as CHOP result in a 60 - 70% response rate; however, 5-year survival is only around 30%. Therefore, new treatment strategies are urgently needed. Currently, different drug classes are under scrutiny.
Areas covered: The authors discuss substances that directly target the tumor cells. The article includes such substances as antimetabolites, antibodies, histone deacetylase inhibitors, tyrosine kinase inhibitors, and immunomodulatory substances such as lenalidomide.
Expert opinion: In the future a close collaboration of geneticists, biochemists, and clinicians together with new technologies such as deep sequencing will allow the refinement of treatment strategies in many diseases including PTCLs and NHLs. This refinement will allow treatments to be prepared according to the need of the individual patient.