New Tool Helps Predict Lymphoma in Sjogren’s Syndrome Patients

New Tool Helps Predict Lymphoma in Sjogren’s Syndrome Patients

Greek researchers have developed a tool for doctors to better score the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in patients diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome. The early identification of high-risk patients could allow for treatment at the first signs of cancer and improve the likelihood of success.

Scientists at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in Greece explored characteristics of 381 Sjogren’s patients and 92 Sjogren’s patients who had developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The study, Predicting the risk for lymphoma development in Sjogren syndrome: An easy tool for clinical use,” published in the journal Medicine,  included patients without other autoimmune conditions.

Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease that attacks tear and salivary glands, leading to dry eyes and mouth. The disease can also destroy glands in other parts of the body. A more serious complication is the chance to develop lymphoma, which effects about 5% of patients, but elevates the Sjogren’s patients’ risk up to 7 – 19 times higher than risk for the rest of the general population.

Comparing symptoms at the time of the diagnosis of Sjogren’s syndrome between the two groups, researchers found that enlarged salivary glands, abnormal lymph nodes, Raynaud’s phenomenon and the presence of certain autoantibodies and other proteins in the blood were all more frequent in patients who later developed lymphoma.

Constructing a scoring system based on the number of risk factors carried by individual patients, the team calculated a percentage risk for lymphoma.

Patients having one to two risk factors had a likelihood of 3.8 %  for lymphoma. The risk jumped to 39.9%  when three to six risk factors were calculated into the equation. For patients with all seven of the identified factors, getting lymphoma was inevitable.

Scientists are not sure why patients with isolated Sjogren’s syndrome develop lymphoma more often, Especially puzzling is why patients with other rheumatic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus, which often co-occur with Sjogren’s, are not at high risk for the lymphoma.

Further investigation into the study findings might give more insight into the mechanisms that put Sjogren’s patients at risk, and support earlier studies that show how abnormal immune mechanisms and the presence of certain viruses, might contribute to processes that lead to lymphoma in Sjogren’s patients.

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Magdalena is a writer with a passion for bridging the gap between the people performing research, and those who want or need to understand it. She writes about medical science and drug discovery. She holds an MS in Pharmaceutical Bioscience and a PhD — spanning the fields of psychiatry, immunology, and neuropharmacology — from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.


  1. Magdalena Kegel, thank you and God bless you!! This is exactly what I have been looking for. I live in rural USA and was diagnosed with Primary Sjogren’s four months ago. My doctors don’t know what I am talking about or why I am worried my Parotid/Sublingual/Supraclavicular/Axillary and Inguinal glands are all being swollen and hurting for 1 1/2 years and only getting larger.
    I also have Autonomic Small Fiber Neuropathy. My feet are numb, my entire body burns. It is a nightmare. If you have any other articles you think would be helpful, please send them my way! I’m ready to go anywhere and to do anything to get relief and to make sure I live.
    Thanks again!

    • Magdalena Kegel says:

      I’m sorry to hear about your condition.
      Researchers are aware that patients with Sjogren’s syndrome are at risk of developing NHL, but still don’t understand the mechanisms behind the link. I am, unfortunately, not aware of any clinical trials exploring the link.

  2. pei says:

    i have sjogrens in my teens and raynauds since childhood. recently for over 5 years, my red and white blood cell count are below average. i was treated for anaemia caused by low iron but doctors are not ordering further tests to find out why it has been going on for so long despite having a balanced diet. i read about a rare type of nhl (waldenstrom macroglobulinemia) which sjogrens patients have more chance of having it than others who do not have the condition. as it affects the bone marrow, just like to know whether this cancer can also cause low blood count levels.

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