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Supporting people with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
Experimental treatments

Keypoints

  • New and experimental treatments are sometimes offered to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma patients who have not responded to conventional treatments such as chemotherapy and monoclonal antibody
  • However, they often have an increased risk of side effects and their benefits are not always proven
  • Patients may be given an experimental treatment if they take part in a clinical trial

Introduction

Sometimes, patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma will either not respond to established treatments, such as chemotherapy, monoclonal antibody therapy or radiotherapy, or will continue to relapse after a remission from partially successful treatment.

In some cases, the lymphoma team may feel it is worth trying a recently developed treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, or suggest that the patient joins a clinical trial for an entirely new therapy. For more information, see Clinical trials.

Such treatments are usually only used in patients who have either non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that keeps coming back after treatment or does not respond at all to normal treatment. This is because experimental treatments often cause more side effects than established treatments, or their lasting benefits are not proven. Only in rare cases would the lymphoma team suggest using a new or experimental treatment without giving the patient tried and tested treatments first.

There are many types of new and experimental treatments that are being developed for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. They are designed to use the knowledge that doctors and scientists are gaining of how non-Hodgkin's lymphoma works on a molecular level. However, many of them are a long way from being safe enough to use in the average patient with the disease.

Vaccines

Vaccines for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are based on the same principles as those used to fight other diseases, such as influenza. A protein that is found on the surface of lymphoma cells is attached to, for example, a harmless carrier substance in the laboratory and injected into the patient, often with a drug such as G-CSF that boosts the immune response. Because the protein is attached to the 'foreign' carrier, the immune system treats it as a foreign antigen and develops antibodies against it. These antibodies then attack not only the injected protein but also the lymphoma cells that have it on their surface.

Although clinical trials are ongoing, recent studies have shown promising results, with patients who responded to the vaccines having remissions of several years.


 

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