What’s New in Research into Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in Children?

Research into the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of childhood non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is being done at many medical centers, university hospitals, and other institutions around the world.

Genetics

As noted in What Causes Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in Children? scientists are making progress in understanding how changes in the DNA (genes) inside normal lymphocytes can cause them to develop into lymphoma cells.

Understanding the gene changes that often occur in lymphoma cells can help explain why these cells grow too quickly, live too long, and don't develop into normal, mature cells. More importantly, this information is being used to develop new treatments for lymphoma.

This progress has also led to very sensitive lab tests for detecting and monitoring this disease during treatment. Tests such as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) can identify lymphoma cells based on some of these gene changes. This test is useful in determining how completely the lymphoma has been destroyed by treatment, and whether a relapse is likely if no further treatment is given.

Clinical trials of new treatments

Most children and teens with NHL are treated at major medical centers, where treatment is often given as part of a clinical trial to get the most up-to-date care. Several important questions are now being studied in clinical trials, such as:

  • Can some lymphomas be treated with less intense chemotherapy regimens, which might help children avoid some long-term side effects?
  • What is the best length of treatment for each type of NHL?
  • Can new chemotherapy drugs and new combinations of drugs improve cure rates?
  • Can the safety and effectiveness of stem cell transplants be improved on?
  • Can newer, targeted drugs such as monoclonal antibodies be helpful in treating NHL, either alone or added to current treatments to make them better? (See Other Drugs for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in Children.)
  • Can newer forms of immunotherapy (treatments that boost the immune system), such as CAR T-cell therapy or immune checkpoint inhibitors, be helpful in treating childhood NHL, especially if other treatments are no longer working?

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Barth MJ, Minard-Colin V. Novel targeted therapeutic agents for the treatment of childhood, adolescent and young adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Br J Haematol. 2019;185(6):1111-1124. 

Bollard CM, Lim MS, Gross TG; COG Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Committee. Children’s Oncology Group’s 2013 blueprint for research: Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2013;60:979–984.

Gross TG, Kamdar KY, Bollard CM. Chapter 19: Malignant Non–Hodgkin Lymphomas in Children. In: Blaney SM, Adamson PC, Helman LJ, eds. Pizzo and Poplack’s Principles and Practice of Pediatric Oncology. 8th ed. Philadelphia Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2021.

National Cancer Institute Physician Data Query (PDQ). Childhood Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment. 2016. Accessed at https://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/hp/child-nhl-treatment-pdq on May 12, 2021.

Termuhlen AM, Gross TG. Overview of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in children and adolescents. UpToDate. 2021. Accessed at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/overview-of-non-hodgkin-lymphoma-in-children-and-adolescents on May 12, 2021.

References

Barth MJ, Minard-Colin V. Novel targeted therapeutic agents for the treatment of childhood, adolescent and young adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Br J Haematol. 2019;185(6):1111-1124. 

Bollard CM, Lim MS, Gross TG; COG Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Committee. Children’s Oncology Group’s 2013 blueprint for research: Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2013;60:979–984.

Gross TG, Kamdar KY, Bollard CM. Chapter 19: Malignant Non–Hodgkin Lymphomas in Children. In: Blaney SM, Adamson PC, Helman LJ, eds. Pizzo and Poplack’s Principles and Practice of Pediatric Oncology. 8th ed. Philadelphia Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2021.

National Cancer Institute Physician Data Query (PDQ). Childhood Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment. 2016. Accessed at https://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/hp/child-nhl-treatment-pdq on May 12, 2021.

Termuhlen AM, Gross TG. Overview of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in children and adolescents. UpToDate. 2021. Accessed at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/overview-of-non-hodgkin-lymphoma-in-children-and-adolescents on May 12, 2021.

Last Revised: August 10, 2021

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