Blastic natural killer cell and extranodal natural killer cell-like T-cell lymphoma presenting in the skin: report of six cases from the UK

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • FJ Child
  • TJ Mitchell
  • SJ Whittaker
  • E Calonje
  • M Spittle
  • And 2 others
  • John Crocker
  • R Russell-Jones


BACKGROUND: Some lymphomas express natural killer (NK)-cell markers such as the neural cell adhesion molecule, which is recognized by the CD56 antibody. These lymphomas may present in the skin, but do not represent a homogeneous group. The new World Health Organization classification of lymphoma/leukaemia recognizes several types of NK/T-cell neoplasm, including blastic NK-cell lymphoma, which characteristically presents with cutaneous lesions. OBJECTIVES: To describe the clinical, pathological and molecular features in six cases of CD56+ lymphoma with cutaneous presentation. METHODS: The clinical, histopathological and immunophenotypic features of six patients were reviewed. In addition, in situ hybridization (ISH) to identify Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) mRNA, and polymerase chain reaction analysis to identify the presence of a clonal population of T cells or B cells were performed on lesional skin. RESULTS: All patients presented with widespread nodules and plaques, which in five cases were a characteristic purple colour. Four patients developed disseminated disease, three with neurological involvement. These four patients died between 14 and 46 months following diagnosis (median 30 months). In four of six cases the histopathological and immunohistological features were in keeping with a blastic NK-cell lymphoma. No clonal immunoglobulin heavy chain (IgH) or T-cell receptor (TCR) gene rearrangement was detected in the four cases consistent with an origin from NK cells. A further case fitted the criteria for an extranodal NK/T-cell lymphoma of nasal type and was also the only case to show evidence of EBV mRNA by ISH. A clonal T-cell population was identified in the final case. This patient also exhibited molecular evidence of a clonal B-cell population and a t(14;18) translocation confirmed by sequence analysis. CONCLUSIONS: Our data confirm that NK-cell lymphomas presenting in the skin are a heterogeneous group, and that in the U.K., blastic NK-cell lymphoma is more common than extranodal NK/T-cell lymphoma of nasal type. These lymphomas pursue an aggressive course, with rapid development of disseminated disease, and resistance to chemotherapy. Detailed immunophenotyping is needed to distinguish the different types. Our molecular data indicate that blastic NK-cell lymphoma cases lack clonal TCR/IgH gene rearrangements consistent with an NK-cell origin. Our ISH findings indicate that EBV plays a pathogenetic role only in extranodal NK/T-cell lymphoma of nasal type.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-515
Number of pages9
JournalBritish Journal of Dermatology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2003