Rationale: The rarity of adult T cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATLL) in China, coupled with its clinicopathologic mimicry of primary skin disease, poses a diagnostic challenge. The method of diagnosis and mechanism of immune regulation in ATLL are discussed in the present report.
Patient concerns: A 51-year-old Chinese man was admitted to the hospital with 2-years history of systemic plaque lesions and 1-year history of left ankle joint pain.
Diagnoses: The patient was diagnosed with ATLL based on the results of flow cytometry immunophenotype and human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) serology.
Interventions: The patient received 3 cycles of cyclophosphamide, epirubicin/ vinorelbine, and dexamethasone (CHOP) chemotherapy. However, he relapsed and did not respond to epirubicin, vindesine, etoposide, dexamethasone (EPOCH) chemotherapy.
Outcomes: His family discontinued the treatment and opted for hospice care.
Lessons: Patch and plaque ATLL types exhibits a better survival rate, but atypical skin patches delays the diagnosis of ATLL and negatively affects the patient survival. Based on the present findings, we suggest that patients with petal-like nuclear lymphocytes in blood smears, a high CD4: CD8 ratio, and strong CD25 expression should undergo HTLV-1 serology testing.