Case Report
Copyright ©2008 The WJG Press and Baishideng. All rights reserved.
World J Gastroenterol. Nov 14, 2008; 14(42): 6584-6588
Published online Nov 14, 2008. doi: 10.3748/wjg.14.6584
Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma presenting multiple lymphomatous polyposis
Akira Hokama, Takeaki Tomoyose, Yu-ichi Yamamoto, Takako Watanabe, Tetsuo Hirata, Fukunori Kinjo, Seiya Kato, Koichi Ohshima, Hiroshi Uezato, Nobuyuki Takasu, Jiro Fujita
Akira Hokama, Takako Watanabe, Tetsuo Hirata, Jiro Fujita, Department of Medicine and Therapeutics (First Department of Internal Medicine), Control and Prevention of Infectious Disease, Faculty of Medicine, University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa 903-0125, Japan
Takeaki Tomoyose, Nobuyuki Takasu, Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Faculty of Medicine, University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa 903-0215, Japan
Yu-ichi Yamamoto, Hiroshi Uezato, Department of Dermatology, Faculty of Medicine, University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa 903-0215, Japan
Fukunori Kinjo, Department of Endoscopy, Ryukyu University Hospital, Okinawa 903-0215, Japan
Seiya Kato, Division of Pathology and Cell Biology, Graduate School and Faculty of Medicine, University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa 903-0215, Japan
Koichi Ohshima, Department of Pathology, School of Medicine, Kurume University, Fukuoka 830-0011, Japan
Author contributions: Hokama A wrote the manuscript; Tomoyose T and Yamamoto Y treated the patient; Watanabe T and Hokama A performed the colonoscopy; Kato S and Ohshima K performed the pathological examination; Hirata T, Kinjo F, Uezato H, Takasu N, and Fujita J supervised the treatment of the patient and preparation of the manuscript; all authors revised the manuscript.
Correspondence to: Akira Hokama, Department of Medicine and Therapeutics (First Department of Internal Medicine), Control and Prevention of Infectious Disease, Faculty of Medicine, University of the Ryukyus, 207 Uehara, Nishihara, Okinawa 903-0215, Japan.
Telephone: +81-98-8951144 Fax: +81-98-8951414
Received: August 6, 2008
Revised: October 21, 2008
Accepted: October 28, 2008
Published online: November 14, 2008


Multiple lymphomatous polyposis (MLP) is an unusual form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma characterized by polyps throughout the gastrointestinal tract. It has been reported that most MLP are observed in cases with mantle cell lymphoma of B-cell type. We herein present a case of a 66-year-old man with adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATLL). Colonoscopy revealed MLP throughout the colon and histopathological findings of ATLL cell infiltration. The patient died despite combination of chemotherapy. The literature of manifestations of colonic involvement of ATLL is reviewed and the importance of endoscopic evaluation to differentiate ATLL intestinal lesions from opportunistic infectious enterocolitis is discussed.

Key Words: Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma, Multiple lymphomatous polyposis, Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1, Strongyloides stercoralis, Colonoscopy

Citation: Hokama A, Tomoyose T, Yamamoto YI, Watanabe T, Hirata T, Kinjo F, Kato S, Ohshima K, Uezato H, Takasu N, Fujita J. Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma presenting multiple lymphomatous polyposis. World J Gastroenterol 2008; 14(42): 6584-6588
Table 1 Clinical features and colonic findings of adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma reported in the English literature.
AuthorAge/genderGastroduodenal findingsColonic findingsTreatmentOutcome
Utsunomiya[5]55/MGastric small nodulesEdematous mucosaNDND
55/MGastric redness and petechiaeDiffuse petechiaeNDND
67/MGastric ulcer and erosionsGranular appearanceNDND
49/MGastroduodenal erosionsMLPNDND
Tokunaga[8]60/MNDUlcerated tumorND15 mo, died
Itsuno[9]43/MGastric ulcerated tumorsMLPCPA, DXR, VCR8 mo, died
Gakiya[10]62/MDuodenal MLPMLPCPA, PSL1 mo, alive
Isomoto[11]70/MDuodenal polypoid tumorMLPCPA, DXR, VDS, VP-164 mo, alive
Isomoto[12]47/MGastric protruding massesGranular, friable, and hyperemic mucosaCPA, DXR, VCR, PSL12 mo, died
Isomoto[13]58/FNormalMLPCPA, DXR, VDS7 mo, died
Asada[14]78/FNDReddish, flat or slightly elevated lesionCPA, THP, VCR, VP-16died
Hidaka[15]68/MNDUlcerated tumorsurgery, CPA, DXR, VDS, PSL10 mo, alive
Onishi[16]41/FNDRedness and erosionNDND
Present case68/MNEMLPCPA, DXR, VCR, PSL3 mo, died
Figure 1
Figure 1 Colonoscopic images of the transverse colon. A: Multiple small polypoid lesions were presented; B: Closer observation revealed tiny submucosal tumors as well as whitish polypoid lesions.
Figure 2
Figure 2 Colonoscopic images with indigo carmine dye. A: Multiple lymphomatous polyposis was clearly depicted; B: Closer observation revealed polypoid and aphthoid lesions had tiny central depression.
Figure 3
Figure 3 Pedunculated colonic mucosal tissue. Biopsy specimens of the polypoid lesion showing diffuse proliferation of atypical lymphoid cells in the mucosal layer (A, HE, × 100). The lymphoma cells display pleomorphic nuclei and pale cytoplasm. (B, HE, × 400).
Figure 4
Figure 4 Immunohistochemical studies. The lymphoma cells were positive for CD3 (A, × 400), CD25 (B, × 400) and CD30 (C, × 400), consistent with ATLL, anaplastic large cell variant.

Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATLL) is a malignancy associated with retrovirus, human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1)[1-3]. Although it is well-known that ATLL cells infiltrate into systemic organs including gastrointestinal (GI) tract[4], colonic involvement has not been fully documented[5]. We herein report a case of ATLL presenting MLP and provide a literature review on this rare entity.


A 48-year-old man presented with fever and watery diarrhea of a history for three weeks. He had been diagnosed as having smouldering ATLL with erythematopapular cutaneous lesions, in which monoclonal integration of proviral DNA of HTLV-1 into the host genome was confirmed by the Southern blot analysis. He had been managed conservatively without leukemic change or visceral invasion for 20 years. Physical examination revealed mandibular lymphadenopathy and multiple erythema and papules on the skin of face, abdomen and back. Abdominal examination showed hyper bowel sounds, but no hepatosplenomegaly. The white blood cell count was 7600/mm3 (normal: 3500-8000/mm3), with a normal differential. Serum lactate dehydrogenase and calcium were normal. The soluble interleukin 2 receptor was 23 070 U/mL (normal: 220-530 U/mL) and anti-HTLV-1 antibody was positive. Stool cultures and parasites including Strongyloides stercoralis were negative. Colonoscopy disclosed multiple whitish polyps throughout the colon (Figure 1). Indigo carmine dye spraying showed a central depression on the polyps (Figure 2). Pedunculated colonic mucosal tissue was replaced by diffuse proliferation of large lymphoid cells with pleomorphic nuclei and pale cytoplasm (Figure 3). Immunohistochemically, these cells were positive for CD3, CD25, and CD30, but not for CD20, suggesting anaplastic large cell variant of ATLL (Figure 4). All of these findings indicated the diagnosis of anaplastic variant of ATLL with colonic involvement presenting MLP. Subsequent ATLL infiltration to the heart, lungs and central nervous system occurred rapidly. An esophagogastroduodenoscopy was not performed. Despite combination chemotherapy consisting of cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine and prednisolone, the patient died 3 mo later.


HTLV-1 infection is endemic in southern Japan, Caribbean, West Africa, South America, and the Middle East. Worldwide 10-20 million people are infected approximately[1,2]. Although the majority of HTLV-1 carriers remain asymptomatic, the virus is associated with severe diseases that can be subdivided into three categories: neoplastic diseases (ATLL and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma), inflammatory syndromes (HTLV-1 myelopathy, uveitis, arthropathy, polymyositis and thyroiditis), and opportunistic infections (S. stercoralis hyperinfection, scabies, tuberculosis and leprosy)[1,2].

ATLL is a systemic multiple lymphoma with a strong tendency to infiltrate various organs or to manifest as leukemic change. Based on the disease manifestations, ATLL is classified into four subtypes: smouldering type, chronic type, lymphoma type, and acute type[6]. Disease progression to the acute or lymphoma from in patients with smouldering and chronic ATLL sometimes occurs, which has a poor prognosis with median survival time of less than 1 year. The case we present was smouldering ATLL with progression to the lymphoma form. A study of 47 autopsied patients with ATLL revealed that tumor cells infiltrate various organs including the spleen (85.1%), bone marrow (72.3%), lungs (72.3%), and GI tract (70.2%). In the GI tract, the stomach is most frequently involved (40.4%), followed by the colon (38.3%) and the small intestine (34.0%)[4]. Precise mechanisms for ATLL cell infiltration in GI tract have not been clarified; however, Chen et al[7] described that ATLL cells from patients with GI tract involvement showed considerably higher expression of an adhesion molecule integrin β7, suggesting a critical role of this molecule in adhesion and subsequent infiltration of a certain type of ATLL cells into intestinal mucosa. Regarding colonic lesions, Utsunomiya et al[5] first described radiographic and endoscopic manifestations of colonic involvement of ATLL in the English literature. They classified the colonic lesions into three types: Edema with erosion, granular appearance, and multiple polypoid lesions with central depression. Table 1 shows colonic involvement of ATLL reported in the English literature. In addition to the prior categories, tumor type[8,15] and colitis type[12] have been reported. A search of the MEDLINE database retrieved only 5 reported cases of ATLL with MLP[5,9-11,13]. Although the molecular mechanisms which may influence phenotypes of colonic lesions have not been clarified, colonic MLP may be correlated with coexistence of upper gastrointestinal MLP or polypoid lesions (Table 1). In addition, patterns and degree of ATLL cell infiltration have been suspected to be reflected to the morphological differences[17]. MLP was coined by Cornes, in 1961, to describe polypoid involvement of long segments of the gastrointestinal tract by lymphoma[17]. Although most of MLP were observed in cases with mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) of B-cell type[18-20], recent studies have shown that follicular lymphoma (FL) and mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma cases also showed MLP with emphasis of the importance of differentiating MCL, FL and MALT presenting MLP because of distinct prognosis among them[21]. Based on prior reports, definite differences of endoscopic morphology have not been observed between MLP of various types of lymphoma. ATLL may have the worst prognosis of MLP; therefore, pathological diagnosis will be much more important.

Patients with ATLL are immunocompromised and develop opportunistic infections that complicate the disease course[2]. Among these infections, there is an increasing body of evidence regarding a strong association between HTLV-1 and S. stercoralis co-infection[22]. Endemic region of HTLV-1 is overlapped with that of S. stercoralis worldwide and co-infestation by S. stercoralis can be severe and fatal[23]. Therefore, great attention should be paid to immunocompromised ATLL patients with refractory diarrhea and malabsorption to differentiate ATLL colonic lesions from opportunistic infectious enterocolitis caused by S. stercoralis, Entamoeba histolytica, Isospora belli, cytomegalovirus, or Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

The prognosis of ATLL is still poor with a median survival of less than one year for the acute and lymphoma forms despite advanced therapy including new multiagent chemotherapy, allogenic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, and antiretroviral therapy[1,2]. Especially, gastrointestinal involvement of ATLL was reported to be one of the poor prognostic factors in acute type ATLL[11,24]. Therefore, endoscopic evaluation may be important for estimating prognosis of ATLL patients.

In conclusion, although this condition is rare, ATLL should be included in the differential diagnosis of MLP. We also emphasize the importance of endoscopic evaluation to differentiate neoplastic intestinal lesions from infectious enterocolitis for abdominal symptoms in patients with leukemia/lymphoma.


Peer reviewers: Finlay A Macrae, MD, Professor, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Po Box 2010, Victoria 3050, Australia; Burton I Korelitz, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Lenox Hill Hospital, 100 East 77th Street, 3 Achelis, New York NY 10021, United States

S- Editor Tian L E- Editor Ma WH

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