The morphologic, immunologic, genotypic and functional properties of peripheral blood and bone marrow cells or cultured cells from four patients with a clinically aggressive non-T, non-B natural killer cell leukaemia/lymphoma (ANKL/L) are described. The leukaemic cells possessed medium to large granules in the cytoplasm, antigens against CD38, CD2, OKIa1 and NKH-1 (CD56) monoclonal antibodies on their cell-surface, and also showed natural killer (NK) activity. In addition, these ANKL/L belonged to neither T- nor B-cell lineage, proved by studying clonal gene rearrangement for the Tβ, Tγ and Tδ receptors, and immunoglobulin.

After comparing them with the seven cases of ANKL/L reported in other institutions, with regard to immunophenotype, genotype and function, we conclude that ANKL/L originating from a third lineage of lymphoid cells is a distinct clinical entity.