Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a type of cancer that forms in the lymphatic system (a network of vessels through which lymph is carried), is not a single disease but a group of several closely-related cancers. In NHL, B-cells, T-cells or natural killer (NK) cells in the lymphatic system change and grow uncontrollably, sometimes forming a tumor. The most common type of NHL is B-cell lymphoma. T-cell lymphoma is less common, and NK-cell lymphoma is relatively rare. NHL can start almost anywhere and can spread to almost any organ. It most often begins in the lymph nodes, liver, spleen or bone marrow, but it can also involve the stomach, intestines, skin, thyroid, brain or any other part of the body where lymphatic tissue is found.

Treatment options for NHL include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy and stem cell transplantation. The treatment options used depend on the type of lymphoma and its stage (extent), as well as other prognostic factors. Standard options are often tailored to the particular situation for an individual patient. Radiation therapy is used less frequently than the other options, and surgery is used in rare cases. NHL is usually treated with a monoclonal antibody drug combined with chemotherapy.

The first successful immunotherapy introduced for lymphoma is a monoclonal antibody that targets a special protein (CD20) on NHL cells. This immunotherapy drug is now regularly available for all B-cell lymphomas.

Many clinical trials are evaluating possible immunotherapy drugs or combinations. Researchers have been focused on checkpoint inhibitors such as PD-1, PD-L1 and CTLA-4 antibodies, alone, and in combination. Other antibodies also are being tested in trials. Adoptive cell therapy is another type of immunotherapy being tested in clinical trials. One specific form of this approach is called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy. Multiple vaccines also are in clinical trials for NHL.

Talk with your doctor about treatment options that are right for you and your stage of cancer. Many clinical trials are evaluating immunotherapies for NHL. Discuss these trials as a treatment option with your doctor.


FDA-Approved Immunotherapies for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
As of 10/26/2016
rituximab (Rituxan)

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