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Immunotherapy for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Get information about the success rate, drugs used, and types of immunotherapies for non-Hodgkin lymphoma with our detailed guide!  

When treating lymphoma with immunotherapy, antibodies are produced in a laboratory and injected into the body intravenously to determine the location of cancerous cells and help prevent their development. 

Why is Immunotherapy Used to Treat lymphoma?  

Lymphoma is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal immune system cells (T- cells or B- cells), which travel through the body.  Some of the immunotherapy drugs used in lymphoma are designed to recognize unique proteins on the surface of lymphoma cells.  These drugs become attached to the lymphoma cells, enabling the immune system to find and destroy them.  Other immunotherapy drugs prevent lymphoma cells from suppressing the immune system, thereby restoring the immune system’s ability to destroy them.  Ultimately, how lymphomas respond to immunotherapy depends on how well the immune system can target the lymphoma cells. 

When Should Immunotherapy Treatment Be Used in Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma? 

Treatment for lymphoma depends on the type of lymphoma diagnosed (e.g., Hodgkin lymphoma vs non-Hodgkin lymphoma) and disease stage. Chemotherapy, radiation, or combinations of the two are typically used to treat both types of lymphoma. Stem cell treatment is an option when initial courses of treatments are ineffective. Radiotherapy is used less often and typically when the disease is localized to a single site in the body. 

Immunotherapy is class of treatments that take advantage of a person’s own immune system to help kill cancer cells. There are currently several FDA-approved immunotherapy options for lymphoma. 

What Are the Types of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Immunotherapy?  

  • Monoclonal antibody therapy 
  • Immunomodulator therapy 
  • Immune checkpoint inhibitors 
  • CAR T-cell therapy 

Monoclonal Antibody Therapy 

Monoclonal antibodies are lab-made versions of immune system proteins. These proteins can attach to some substances in cancer cells. This can help the immune system attack the cancer. These medicines are most often given by an IV (intravenous line) right into the blood. But some can also be given as a shot under the skin. Treatment is often done at a healthcare provider’s office. Or it may be done at a treatment center. 

The most common monoclonal antibody used to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma is rituximab. This medicine attaches to a substance found on B-cells. 

Immunomodulating Therapy 

Immunomodulating medicines can stimulate your immune system. They can help slow down the growth of cancer cells. They may be used for some types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. They’re most often used if other treatments are no longer working. Lenalidomide is an example of this kind of medicine. It’s taken as a pill. 

Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors 

The immune system uses certain proteins to see healthy cells and not attack them. Cancer cells sometimes use these checkpoints to keep the immune system from attacking them. 

Medicines called immune checkpoint inhibitors block these checkpoints. Then the immune system can kill the cancer cells. Pembrolizumab is 1 of these medicines. It might be used to treat certain B-cell lymphomas that start in the chest and don’t respond to other treatments. 

CAR T-Cell Therapy 

For this type of treatment, a type of your white blood cells (WBCs) called T-cells, are removed from the blood. This is done with a process called apheresis. The rest of the blood goes right back into you. Only the WBCs are removed. The genes of the WBCs called T-cells are then changed in a lab. They are made to have receptors called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) on their surface. This causes the T cells to target and kill cancer cells. The CAR T-cells are grown in a lab. They are then put back in your blood after chemotherapy. They stay in the body for many months. This is done to help keep the cancer cells from coming back. 

What Are the Side Effects of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Immunotherapy Treatment? 

Immunotherapy treats many types of cancer effectively. But like other cancer treatments, they are powerful medications that can cause changes within the body or to how you feel, called side effects. These side effects are different for everyone. They depend on the type of immunotherapy, the type of cancer, its location, your general health, and other factors. 

Immunotherapy may also cause the immune system to attack healthy cells. This can cause side effects, also called “immune-related adverse events.” These may occur at any time during treatment or sometimes even after stopping immunotherapy. 

Different types of immunotherapies cause different side effects. That’s why it is important to talk with your doctor about the type of immunotherapy used for your cancer, the goals of treatment, and the potential side effects of your immunotherapy. 

Some general side effects of immunotherapy include:  

  • Tiredness 
  • Rash and itching 
  • Muscle aches 
  • Constipation 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Decreased appetite 
  • Low platelet counts, which increases the risk of bleeding 
  • Low white blood cell counts, which increases the risk of infection 
  • Low red blood cell counts, called anemia, which can cause fatigue, paleness, and shortness of breath 
  • Pneumonia (rare) 
  • Heart problems (rare) 

What Is The Success Rate Of Immunotherapy For Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?  

Chemo-immunotherapy is now the first-line standard of care for many sub types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Treatment with chemo-immunotherapy for aggressive lymphomas such as diffuse large B-cell (DLBCL) obtains complete responses in 75–80% of patients. However, the prognosis remains poor in patients who relapse or have refractory disease. 

Clinical Trials for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma  

Lymphoma Clinical Trials offer access to new, innovative treatments that are not widely available but go through strict, FDA-approved regulatory processes before being approved for use. Massive Bio guides patients through the most comprehensive clinical trial matching process using our AI-Powered system. Participating in a clinical trial provides patients with new treatments they would otherwise not have access to. Contact our amazing team to walk you through every step. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with any of the following Lymphoma subtypes, we’re here to help.  

  • Marginal Zone Lymphoma (MZL) 
  • Follicular Lymphoma 
  • Burkitt Lymphoma 
  • T-Cell Large B-cell Lymphoma 
  • High-grade B-cell Lymphoma 
  • Primary Mediastinal (thymic) Large B-cell Lymphoma 

If you don’t know which type of Lymphoma you have, that’s okay. Additional testing can help you determine your exact diagnosis. 

Sources: 

https://www.cancer.gov

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

https://lymphoma.org

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