NK T Cell Lymphoma


The term NK T cell lymphoma refers to one of two subtypes of lymphoma that affect the NK (Natural Killer) cells of the immune system. They are:

This subtype of lymphoma most often occurs in the nose or nasopharynx, and presents first as a nasal obstruction and/or nasal discharge.

Prognostic indicators involved in NK T Cell Lymphoma

Certain specific factors have been found to serve as fairly reliable prognostic indicators of extranodal NK T cell lymphoma. They are:

  • Stage at diagnosis (the lower the better)
  • Age (under age 60 = better prognosis)
  • Absence or presence of B symptoms (the absence of B symptoms suggests a better prognosis)
  • Performance status (i.e. how affected is the patient by the disease? The less affected, the better the prognosis).

Ultimately, NK T cell lymphoma has very poor survival rates and general prognoses. For instance, overall survival of patients with extranodal NK T cell lymphoma is 30-40%, meaning that 3 or 4 of every ten patients with this disease is expected to be alive five years from diagnosis. The news is much worse for aggressive NK cell leukemia—most patients do not survive more than a few months after initial symptoms appear.

Treating NK T Cell Lymphoma

There is currently no clear consensus in the cancer community regarding the best and most effective first-line treatment for NK T cell lymphoma. In some cases, radiotherapy is the preferred treatment, since NK T cell lymphoma does not traditionally respond well to conventional chemotherapeutic regimens, but to this end they are the only modes of treatment that have been explored to any reasonable degree. Depending on the disease and the patient, treatment may include chemotherapy regimens such as CHOP, DA-EPOCH, or SMILE, followed by radiation.


  • Wong KF. NK cell neoplasias. Atlas Genet Cytogenet Oncol Haematol. April 2004.
  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Non-Hodgkin's Lymphomas, V.I.2010

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