Are T-LGL leukemia and NK-chronic lymphoproliferative disorder really two distinct diseases?
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Mature Large Granular lymphocytes (LGL) disorders include a spectrum of conditions, ranging from polyclonal to clonal indolent and/or overt leukemic LGL proliferations. Most cases are represented by clonal expansions of TCRα/β+ LGL displaying a CD8+ phenotype with expression of cytotoxic T-cell antigens (CD57, CD16, TIA-1, perforin and granzyme B). Proliferations of CD3-CD16+ NK cells with a restricted patter of NK receptors are less common, usually comprising 15% of the cases. Main features are cytopenias, splenomegaly and autoimmune phenomena. Morphology, immunophenotyping and molecular analyses are crucial to establish a correct diagnosis of disease. According to the 2008 WHO classification, two separate entities account for the majority of cases, T-LGL leukemia and Chronic Lymphoproliferative Disease of NK cell (this latter still provisional). Although these disorders are characterized by the expansion of different cells types i.e. T and NK cells, with specific genetic features and abnormalities, compelling evidence supports the hypothesis that a common pathogenic mechanism would be involved in both disorders. As a matter of fact, a foreign antigen driven clonal selection is considered the initial step in the mechanism ultimately leading to generation of both conditions. In this chapter we will discuss recent advances on the pathogenesis of chronic T and NK disorders of granular lymphocytes, challenging the current WHO classification on the opportunity to separate T and NK disorders, which are likely to represent two sides of the same coin.