Published online Feb 6, 2016. doi: 10.5315/wjh.v5.i1.37
Peer-review started: August 1, 2015
First decision: November 6, 2015
Revised: December 13, 2015
Accepted: January 5, 2016
Article in press: January 7, 2016
Published online: February 6, 2016
AIM: To review the characteristics of hematological malignancies in tropical areas, and to focus on the specific difficulties regarding their management.
METHODS: This is a retrospective narrative review of cases of patients with hematological malignancies. All medical files of patients with malignant disease whose treatment was coordinated by the Hemato-Oncology service of the Cayenne Hospital in French Guiana between the 1st of January 2010 and the 31st of December 2012 were reviewed. Clinical data were extracted from the medical files and included: Demographic data, comorbidities, serological status for human immunodeficiency virus, human T-lymphotropic virus 1 (HTLV1), hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus infections, cytology and pathology diagnoses, disease extension, treatment, organization of disease management, and follow-up. The subgroup of patients with hematological malignancies and virus-related malignancies were reviewed. Cases involving patients with Kaposi sarcoma, and information on solid tumor occurrence in virus-infected patients in the whole patient population were included. Since the data were rendered anonymous, no informed consent was obtained from the patients for this retrospective analysis. Data were compiled using EXCEL® software, and the data presentation is descriptive only. The references search was guided by the nature of the data and discussion.
RESULTS: In total, the clinical files of 594 patients (pts) were reviewed. Hematological malignancies were observed in 87 patients, and Kaposi sarcoma in 2 patients. In total, 70 patients had a viral infection, and 34 of these also had hematological malignancies. The hematological diagnoses were: Multiple myeloma in 27 pts, lymphoma (L) in 43 pts, myeloproliferative disorders in 17 pts and Kaposi sarcoma in two patients. The spectrum of non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHL) was: Burkitt L (1 pt), follicular L (5 pts), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (5 pts), high-grade NHL (9 pts), mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue NHL (4 pts), T-cell lymphoma (4 pts), Adult T-cell lymphoma-leukemia (ATL)/lymphoma/leukemia (12 pts); three patients had Hodgkin disease. The spectrum of myeloproliferative diseases was: Chronic myelogenous leukemia (8 pts), thrombocytemia (5 pts) and acute leukemia (4 pts). There were no polycythemia vera, myelosclerosis, and myelodysplastic diseases. This appears to be due to bias in the recruitment process. The most important observations were: The specificity of HTLV1- related ATL malignancies, and the high incidence of virus infections in patients with hematological malignancies. Further, we noted several limitations regarding the treatment and organization of disease management. These were not related to the health care organization, but were due to a lack of board-certified hemato-oncology specialists, a lack of access to diagnostic tools (e.g., cytogenetic and molecular diagnosis, imaging techniques), the unavailability of radiotherapy, and the physical distance from mainland France. Yet the geography and cultures of the country also contributed to the encountered difficulties. These same limitations are seen in tropical countries with low and intermediate household incomes, but they are amplified by economic, social, and cultural issues. Thus, there is often little access to diagnostic procedures, adequate clinical management, and an unavailability of suitable medical treatments. Programs have been developed to establish centers of excellence, training in pathology diagnosis, and to provide free access to treatment.
CONCLUSION: Management of hematological malignancies in tropical areas requires particular skills regarding specific features of these diseases and in terms of the affected populations, as well as solid public health policies.
Core tip: Management of hematological malignancies is guided by very specialized and up to date guidelines that are based on the biology of the diseases. An important proportion of these diseases are related to viral infections, and this is particularly so in tropical areas. Based on a narrative review of 87 cases of patients managed in French Guiana, we provide an overview of the most important characteristics of these hematological diseases (e.g., human immunodeficiency virus and human T-lymphotropic virus 1 related diseases), the limitations regarding management (e.g., board-certified specialists, pathology labs, imaging techniques, radiotherapy), and possible solutions to improve quality (e.g., centers of excellence, training programs in pathology). These observations may be more broadly relevant in the setting of countries with low and intermediate household incomes.