Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma clinically confused with viral/drug skin eruptions and pathologically misinterpreted as mycosis fungoides/Sézary syndrome

J Cutan Pathol. 2020 Dec 22. doi: 10.1111/cup.13789. Online ahead of print.


Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATLL) is a lymphoproliferative disorder of mature CD4-positive T-cell lymphoid cells associated with retrovirus human T-lymphotropic virus type-1 (HTLV-1) with a wide clinical and pathologic spectrum. We report a case of a 53-year-old African man who presented with fever and skin eruptions on the trunk composed of non-itchy erythematous reticulated macules and papules initially suspected for viral exanthem or drug rash. Skin punch biopsy showed a dermal T-cell lymphoid infiltrate with epidermotropism. The patient developed generalized lymphadenopathy and his peripheral blood showed lymphocytosis with atypical lymphocytes with convoluted nuclei. Our initial diagnosis was mycosis fungoides with Sézary syndrome. However, some clinical and histopathologic features were unusual. The acute onset, lack of previous skin lesions, the histomorphologic features of the dermal, nodal and peripheral blood lymphocytes and the geographic origin of the patient raised the suspicion of other T-cell lymphomas, particularly ATLL. This was confirmed by a positive anti-HTLV-1 serology. Our final diagnosis was acute variant ATLL. Different T-cell lymphomas can involve the skin with overlapping clinical, histomorphologic and immunohistochemical features. Some clinical and pathologic features should alarm dermatologists and pathologists to the possibility of ATLL particularly in patients from HTLV-1 endemic geographic areas.

Keywords: Sézary syndrome; T-cell lymphoma; adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma; mycosis fungoides; rash.