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Photo by: New Zealand Government, Office of the Governor-General (Photo by Mark Tantrum/, CC BY 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

In his upcoming memoir, actor Sam Neill, best known for his portrayal of paleontologist Alan Grant in the “Jurassic Park” films, shared that he was diagnosed and treated for a rare form of blood cancer over the past year.

The actor was diagnosed with angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL). Fortunately, he said he is in remission and is currently cancer free.

“I’m not off the hook as such, but there’s no cancer in my body,” Neill told The Guardian.

According to Dr. Hayder Saeed, a hematologist at Moffitt Cancer Center, AITL is a subtype of mature T- cell lymphoma, which is rarer than other common B-cell lymphomas.

“It is characterized by many changes in the cancer genome leading to exposure of unrestricted growth genes in the malignant cells,” Saeed said. “It has been linked to exposure or reactivation of a viral infection called Epstein-Barr virus, or EBV.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, EBV is one of the most common human viruses in the world and is a form of the human herpes virus.

While AITL is rare, experts at Moffitt treat it quite frequently and doctors are available who specialize in the specific type of cancer. Those who are diagnosed with AITL are often treated with a multi-agent chemotherapy regimen.

More research is needed to improve treatment, Saeed says.

We generally recommend enrollment in clinical trials with novel agents that have been shown to have more promising activity using immunotherapy and targeted therapy.
Dr. Hayder Saeed, Moffitt hematologist

“We generally recommend enrollment in clinical trials with novel agents that have been shown to have more promising activity using immunotherapy and targeted therapy,” he said. “We have clinical trials here at Moffitt using chemo-free options for this type of cancer with promising results so far.”

Neill shared that he was on a regular chemotherapy drug prescribed monthly and he will do so for the remainder of his life. He has returned to work and remains healthy, according to reports.

However, Saeed says not all AITL patients are so lucky. Long term remissions range in the 30th to 50th percentile and relapse is common. That’s why enrolment in clinical trials is so important, Saeed adds.

While it is believed that this type of cancer has links to EBV, it still remains unclear what actually causes AITL. Most patients experience symptoms that prompt them to visit their general practitioner and then an oncologist.

“Most patients experience symptoms similar to what most other lymphoma patients feel: fever, chills, night sweats, unintentional weight loss and enlarged lumps in the neck, under the arms or in the groin,” Saeed said.

Patients with AITL are encouraged to pay attention to changes in their body and symptoms and to seek medical attention when necessary. Neill told The Guardian that he feels fortunate to be alive and is looking forward to future projects.

“I can’t pretend that the last year hasn’t had its dark moments,” Neill said. “But those dark moments throw the light into sharp relief, you know, and have made me grateful for every day and immensely grateful for."