What`s new in non-Hodgkin lymphoma research?
Scientists are making great progress in learning about the genetics of lymphoma. They are learning more about how genes change to make cells grow too fast, live too long, and not grow into mature cells. This research may help them to find drugs to block the process.
New tests to find and classify lymphoma are also being studied. Some of these tests might be able to predict how the cancer will respond to chemo, to show how completely the cancer has been destroyed by treatment, or to find out whether the cancer is likely to come back (relapse).
Much of the research being done on NHL is focused on looking at new and better ways to treat this disease.
New chemotherapy (chemo) drugs are being studied in clinical trials. In recent years, these studies have led to the approval of newer drugs for use against certain types of lymphoma. Others studies are looking at new ways to combine drugs using different doses or drugs in a different order.
Stem cell transplants
Researchers are working to improve stem cell transplant methods, including new ways to collect the stem cells before the transplant. They are also testing ways to remove any traces of cancer cells from stem cells before they are given back to the patient. Other research is focused on graft-versus-host disease and on looking at so-called mini-transplants.
As researchers have learned more about cancer cells, they have developed newer drugs that target certain parts of these cells. These are different from standard chemo drugs, which work by attacking all cells that are growing quickly. The newer drugs focus on the cancer cells. They often have different side effects, and they may work in some cases where chemo doesn't. These drugs are now being studied in clinical trials.
Lymphoma cells contain certain proteins on their surface. Monoclonal antibodies can be aimed at these proteins to destroy the lymphoma cells while causing little damage to normal body tissues. This treatment approach has already been proven to work. Several such drugs, including rituximab, are now being used, and new monoclonal antibodies are being developed. Some monoclonal antibodies are attached to substances that can kill cancer cells, like radiation or a chemo drug. They act as homing devices to deliver the toxins right to the cancer cells. These are discussed in the section “Immunotherapy for non-Hodgkin lymphoma."
Scientists are also looking at whether it's possible to use a vaccine to help a person's immune system reject the lymphoma. Doctors have known for some time that people's immune systems may help fight their cancer. In rare cases, these people's immune systems have killed the cancers, and they have been cured. Scientists are now searching for ways to boost this immune reaction by the use of vaccines.
Unlike vaccines in children, the goal of these vaccines is to create an immune reaction in people who already have an early cancer or to keep the cancer from coming back after treatment. So far, there have been a few successes with this approach. It is a major area of research in lymphoma treatment. At this time lymphoma vaccines are only available in clinical trials.
Last Medical Review: 04/18/2013
Last Revised: 04/18/2013