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Discovery of adult T-cell leukemia

BioMed Central
Publication Date
  • Review
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Adult T-cell leukemia (ATL) was first reported as a distinct clinical entity in 1977 in Japan. The predominant physical findings are skin lesions, lymphadenopathy and hepatosplenomegaly. The ATL cells are of mature T-helper phenotype and have a characteristic appearance with indented nuclei. There is striking frequent hypercalcemia with increased numbers of osteoclasts. Central to the identification of the disease is a striking geographic clustering in southwestern Japan and the isolation of human T-cell lymphotropic virus type-1 (HTLV-1) from the cell lines of patients. Worldwide epidemiological studies have been made through international collaborations. Several diseases were found to be related to HTLV-1 infection. Moreover, it was noted that an immunodeficiency state may be induced by HTLV-1 infection. In Japan, HTLV-1 carriers have been estimated to be 1.2 million, and more than 700 cases of ATL have been diagnosed each year.

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