Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

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Angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma

Angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (ATCL) is an uncommon T-cell type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).

ATCL is more common in the elderly, and the average age at diagnosis is 62. It is slightly more common in men than in women. ATCL has been linked to different viral infections, such as the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).


ATCL is usually a fast-growing (aggressive) type of NHL. It is often diagnosed at an advanced stage (stage 3 or stage 4). People with ATCL often have:

  • larger than normal lymph nodes in different areas of the body
  • B symptoms (unexplained fever, drenching night sweats and unexplained weight loss)
  • an itchy skin rash
  • joint pain
  • larger than normal organs, such as the liver and spleen
  • NHL that has spread to the bone marrow
  • anemia


There is no standard treatment for ATCL. Treatment is usually effective at first, but ATCL often comes back (recurs).

Corticosteroids, such as prednisone or dexamethasone (Decadron, Dexasone), may be the first treatment for ATCL. The disease often progresses while it is treated with corticosteroids. Chemotherapy is given when the disease starts to progress.


ATCL is often treated with a combination of chemotherapy drugs. A common chemotherapy combination used is CHOP, which is cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Procytox), doxorubicin (Adriamycin), vincristine (Oncovin) and prednisone.

Stem cell transplant

A stem cell transplant may be an option for some younger people with ATCL that no longer responds to treatment (called refractory disease).

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)

A type of herpes virus that causes mononucleosis (a highly infectious disease that causes fever, fatigue, malaise and sore throat).

Epstein-Barr virus is associated with an increased risk of certain cancers, including Burkitt lymphoma.

Also called Human herpesvirus 4 (HHV-4).


Dr Shawn Li I’m extremely grateful to the Canadian Cancer Society for funding my research with an Innovation Grant.

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