What’s New in Research and Treatment of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in Children?

Research on 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 great progress in understanding how changes in the DNA 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. 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 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 early-stage (stages I and II) lymphomas be treated with less intense chemotherapy regimens?
  • What is the best length of treatment for each type of NHL?
  • Can less intense treatments provide an outcome as good as highly intense treatments, while possibly helping children avoid some long-term side effects?
  • 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, 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 master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Allen CE, Kamdar KY, Bollard CM, Gross TG. Malignant non-Hodgkin lymphomas in children. In: Pizzo PA, Poplack DG, eds. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Oncology. 7th ed. Philadelphia Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016:587–603.

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.

Kamdar KY, Sandlund JT, Bollard CM. Malignant lymphomas in childhood. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ, Silberstein LE, Heslop HE, Weitz JI, Anastasi J, eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier; 2013:1255−1266.

Last Medical Review: June 20, 2017 Last Revised: August 1, 2017

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