Review on natural killer/T-cell lymphoma

Hematol Oncol. 2023 Apr;41(2):221-229. doi: 10.1002/hon.2944. Epub 2021 Dec 9.


Extranodal natural killer (NK)/T-cell lymphoma (ENKTL) is strongly associated with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and has a high prevalence in Asian and in Central and South America. About 85% of ENKTLs derive from NK cells and 15% from T-cells. Various factors have been implicated in the development of ENKTL. Molecular pathogenesis of NK/T-cell lymphomas include mutations of genes, involving in the Janus Kinase/signal transducer and activator of transcription pathway, RNA helicase family, epigenetic regulation, and tumor suppression. The relationship between ENKTL and human leukocyte antigen has been demonstrated. Radiotherapy plays a key role in the first-line treatment of early-stage. In stage III/IV diseases, non-anthracycline-regimens-containing L-asparaginase are recommended. Although clinical remission after L-asparaginase-based combination therapy has been achieved in the majority of patients with advanced-stage or relapsed/refractory extranodal NK/T-cell lymphoma-nasal type, the long-term overall survival is still poor. Recently, immunotherapy and new therapeutic targets have gained much attention. In this article, we discuss the pathogenesis, diagnosis, prognostic models and management options of ENKTL.

Keywords: EBV; L-asparaginase; NK/T-cell lymphoma; PD-1; chidamide; gene mutation; human leukocyte antigen; prognostic models.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asparaginase
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections* / pathology
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / physiology
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / pathology
  • Lymphoma, Extranodal NK-T-Cell* / diagnosis
  • Lymphoma, Extranodal NK-T-Cell* / etiology
  • Lymphoma, Extranodal NK-T-Cell* / therapy


  • Asparaginase