What is angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL)?

Angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL) is a rare type of fast-growing non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It develops when T-cells (also called T-lymphocytes) become abnormal. T-cells are white blood cells that fight infection.

The abnormal T-cells (lymphoma cells) usually build up in lymph nodes, but it can affect other parts of the body.

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Symptoms of angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL)

Symptoms of AITL often include:

  • feeling generally unwell
  • itchy skin or rash
  • swellings in the neck, armpit or groin caused by lymphoma cells building up in the lymph nodes.

B symptoms

Some people also have:

  • drenching night sweats
  • high temperatures (fevers) with no obvious cause
  • unexplained weight loss

Doctors call this group of symptoms B symptoms.

Other symptoms

Sometimes AITL spreads to other areas of the body, such as the lungs or tummy area (abdomen)

Depending on where the lymphoma spreads to, this can cause symptoms such as:

  • shortness of breath
  • a swollen abdomen.

We have more information about the signs and symptoms of lymphoma.

Causes of angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL)

The causes of AITL are mostly unknown. Like other cancers it is not infectious and cannot be passed on to other people. It usually affects people age 50 to 70.

We have more information about causes and risk factors for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Diagnosis of angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL)

AITL often causes symptoms that are like other conditions. This sometimes makes diagnosis difficult.

Biopsy

The most common test for this lymphoma is to remove part or all of an enlarged lymph node (a biopsy). This may be done under local or general anaesthetic. The biopsy is then sent to a laboratory to be checked for lymphoma cells. You may also have biopsies taken from other areas of the body.

You can read more about further tests you may have in our information about non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Waiting for test results can be a difficult time. It may help to talk to your family, friends or specialist nurse.

Staging and grading of angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL)

The results of your tests help your doctors find out how many areas of the body are affected by lymphoma and where these areas are. This is called staging.

Lymphomas are also grouped as either low-grade or high-grade. Low-grade lymphomas are usually slow growing and high-grade lymphomas grow more quickly. AITL is a high-grade, fast-growing lymphoma.

We have more information about staging and grading of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Treatment for angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL)

A team of specialists will meet to discuss the best possible treatment for you. This is called a multidisciplinary team (MDT).

Your doctor or cancer specialist or nurse will explain the different treatments and their side effects. They will also talk to you about things to consider when making treatment decisions

Treatments for AITL might include the following:

  • Watch and wait

    During watch and wait, you don’t need to start treatment straight away. Instead, you have regular tests and appointments to monitor the lymphoma and check for signs that you need to start treatment.

  • Chemotherapy

    Chemotherapy is an important treatment for AITL. The most common used drugs to treat AITL are called CHOP and CHOEP.

  • Steroids

    Steroids are drugs that are often given with chemotherapy to treat lymphomas. They help make chemotherapy more effective.

  • Stem cell transplants

    Stem cell transplants are sometimes used to treat lymphoma that has come back after treatment. Stem cell transplants are intensive treatments, so it is not suitable for everyone. You may have a transplant:

Treatments may make all signs of the AITL disappear (called remission). But there is a risk AITL will come back. This is called recurrence or relapse. Further treatment can be given to manage AITL that comes back. We have more information about treating lymphoma that has come back.

Targeted therapies may be used to treat AITL as part of a clinical trial.

After angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma treatment (AITL)

After treatment

You have regular follow-up appointments after treatment. These appointments are a good opportunity for you to talk to your doctor or nurse about any concerns you have. Your doctor will want to know how you are feeling generally, and to check you are recovering from any side effects of treatment.

Late effects

Sometimes a side effect may continue or develop months or years after treatment. This is called a late effect.

We have more information about long-term and late effects of treatment for lymphoma.

Well-being and recovery

Even if you already have a healthy lifestyle, you may choose to make some positive lifestyle changes after treatment.

Making small changes such as eating well and keeping active can improve your health and wellbeing and help your body recover.

Getting support

Everyone has their own way of dealing with illness and the different emotions they experience. You may find it helpful to talk things over with family and friends or your doctor or nurse.

Macmillan can offer emotional, practical and financial help and support.

The organisations below also offer information and support:

  • Blood Cancer UK
    Blood Cancer UK is a blood cancer research charity that provides information and support on any type of blood cancer.
  • Lymphoma Action 
    Lymphoma Action gives emotional support, advice and information on all aspects of Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It has a national network of people with lymphoma, and local groups.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL) information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at cancerinformationteam@macmillan.org.uk

    Mosalpuria K, et al. Angioimmunoblastic T-Cell Lymphoma Management Seminars in Hematology. 2014. 51:1;52–58. Available from: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0037196313001583?via%3Dihub

    Schmitz M and de Leval L. How I manage peripheral T-cell lymphoma, not otherwise specified and angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma: current practice and a glimpse into the future. British Journal of Haematology. 2017. 176, 851–866.


  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr Anne Parker, Consultant Haematologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

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