A long-term study of patients with chronic natural killer cell lymphocytosis



Chronic natural killer cell lymphocytosis is a persistent state of natural killer (NK) cell (CD3CD16/CD56+) excess in the peripheral blood that is not associated with clinical lymphoma. In 16 consecutive patients (median age 60.5 years, range 7–77), males were overrepresented (M:F 7:1) and the median absolute NK cell count was 4.09 × 109/l (range 1.2–16.6). Bone marrow examination was performed in 14 patients and showed atypical granulomata in two; chromosome studies in seven patients were normal. Clonal T-cell receptor gene rearrangement was not found in any of 12 patients evaluated. At presentation, seven patients (44%) had no clinical symptoms or signs and the others had vasculitic skin lesions (three patients), non-neutropenic fever (three patients), recurrent neutropenic infection (two patients), musculoskeletal symptoms (two patients), peripheral neuropathy (two patients), aphthous ulcers (one patient), and splenomegaly (one patient). Five patients had anaemia, five had neutropenia, and two had thrombocytopenia. After a median follow-up of 5.1 years (range 0–10.2) from immunophenotypic diagnosis or 5.7 years (range 0.1–14.1) from documentation of absolute lymphocytosis, vasculitic glomerulonephritis developed in one patient, accelerated splenomegaly developed in a patient receiving myeloid growth factor treatment, and severe aplastic anaemia developed in one patient. Treatment with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or immunosuppressive agents was variably successful.