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Angioimmunoblastic lymphoma

Angioimmunoblastic lymphoma (AITL) is a rare type of non Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Find out more about the symptoms and treatment.

What it is

There are many different types of NHL. Doctors can tell which type you have by looking at the lymphoma cells under the microscope.

Angioimmunoblastic lymphoma is a high grade (aggressive) lymphoma that affects blood cells called T cells. It is also called angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL).

High grade lymphomas tend to grow more quickly than low grade lymphomas. 

Who gets it

AITL is rare. It accounts for between 1 and 4 out of every 100 cases of NHL (1 to 4%).

People diagnosed with AITL tend to be older. Both men and women are affected in about the same numbers.

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • a number of swollen lymph nodes
  • a high temperature (fever)
  • itching
  • weight loss.

AITL can also cause symptoms such as skin rashes or inflammation of the joints. This is because the cancerous T cells produce abnormal proteins that the body reacts to (known as an autoimmune reaction).

Getting diagnosed

Your doctor diagnoses AITL by taking a sample (biopsy) of an enlarged lymph node. A specialist doctor then looks at the cells under a microscope.

Treatment

The most common treatment is a combination of chemotherapy drugs such as:

  • CHOP 
  • fludarabine and cytarabine

Or, sometimes doctors treat this type of lymphoma with steroids alone.

Chemotherapy can shrink the lymphoma and may get rid of it completely for many people. But it is quite common for the lymphoma to come back after treatment (relapse). Some people may then have a very high dose of chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant.

Researchers are looking at the drugs thalidomide and bevacizumab to help treat AITL. But these treatments are still experimental for this type of non Hodgkin lymphoma.

Last reviewed: 
12 Nov 2012
  • Cancer: Principles and practice of oncology (10th edition)
    VT De Vita, TS Lawrence and SA Rosenberg
    Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2015    

  • Lymphoma Association
    Accessed November 2012

  • Cancer and its management (7th edition)
    J Tobias and D Hochhauser
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2014

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