The most common type of blood cancer is called lymphoma. It is developed in the lymphatic system, an important element of the immune system. Lymphoma is diagnosed when white blood cells start to grow and reproduce abnormally, instead of dying and giving space to new cells. There are numerous sub-types of lymphoma. The most used classification defines if the disease is a Hodgkin Lymphoma or non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, and if it originated in the B-cells or T-cells.
Classifying a lymphoma depends on different factors, like the cells it affects, progression, and how it looks under the microscope. In order to define the best treatment for lymphoma, physicians rely not only on the type and grade of lymphoma, but also on the stage, general health, and age of the patient. The physician recommends a treatment according to these factors and it may be a traditional, experimental, or alternative one — or a combination of more than one.
Traditional Lymphoma Treatment
Chemotherapy is one of the most common types of treatment for lymphoma, along with radiotherapy. Chemotherapy uses cytotoxic drugs, also known as anti cancer, to kill the cells damaged by cancer, which occurs when the therapy disrupts the cancer cells’ growth. It can be administered into the vein or in tablets. Patients are often treated with CVP chemotherapy (cyclophosphamide, vincristine and steroid prednisolone), but there are also other options. CHOP (cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine and prednisolone), FAD (fludarabine, doxorubicin, and the steroid dexamethasone) or FMD (fludarabine, mitoxantrone and dexamethasone) are more commonly used in the case of recurrent cancer. Chemotherapy may be combined with biological therapy or radiotherapy.
Radiotherapy is also one of the most used type of therapy for patients with lymphoma. High energy rays are used to eliminate the cancer cells. In cases of stage 1 or stage 2 lymphoma — during which the cancer is only present in one or two areas of lymph nodes — radiotherapy is applied locally. In cases of later stages, radiotherapy is usually combined with chemotherapy or administered following chemotherapy. Radiotherapy may also be combined with biological therapy.
The least common of the traditional lymphoma treatments is surgery. It is rarely an option due to the proven efficacy of the previous options. It may be performed to remove a limited part of an organ affected by lymphoma such as the stomach or small bowel, or to remove the spleen in rare cases of splenic marginal zone lymphoma. Surgical biopsies are a common surgical procedure used to confirm diagnosis.
Experimental Lymphoma Treatment
Despite being a relatively new treatment, biological therapy is also a common option for patients with lymphoma. It consists of proteins composed in a lab based on a single copy of humanized antibody and it is used to stop the growth and reproduction of lymphoma cells. Monoclonal antibodies (MABs), the most common type of treatment used in patients with lymphoma, target specific proteins on the cell surface. Rituximab (Rituxan), also known as mabthera, is usually combined with chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but there are other options, such as Obinutuzumab (Gazyva), Ofatumumab (Arzerra), and Ibritumomab tiuxetan (Zevalin).
Steroid therapy is a treatment designed to complement chemo or radiotherapy. Steroids are naturally produced by the body but can be artificially reproduced in a laboratory also. Steroids such as prednisolone, dexamethasone or methylprednisolone in the form of tablets or injections may be recommended for patients with lymphoma, along with chemotherapy to improve its results.
Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplants
Stem cell transplant is a novel and investigational treatment that uses the patient’s own cells to create new cells and transplant them back into the body. The stem cells contained in the bone marrow are collected before chemotherapy and radiotherapy and patients will be able to receive higher doses of the treatments. This happens because aggressive chemo or radiotherapy will kill both lymphoma and healthy cells, but the patients will later receive their own transplanted stem cell that were, in the meantime, frozen and stored. Bone marrow and stem cell transplants are more common in cases of remission with high probability of recurrence, second remission, or for treatment resistant lymphoma.
Advancements made in cancer research have recently allowed scientists to develop a new type of drugs designed to target the alterations caused in the cells by the cancer. Targeted therapy works differently from chemotherapy and usually has less severe side effects. The different types of targeted therapy include proteasome inhibitors like Bortezomib (Velcade), histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors like Romidepsin (Istodax) or Belinostat (Beleodaq), and kinase inhibitors like Ibrutinib (Imbruvica) or Idelalisib (Zydelig).
Alternative Lymphoma Treatment
There is no scientific proof that alternative medicine is able to cure lymphoma, but it can help patients deal with symptoms and the stress associated with cancer diagnosis. Acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage, meditation, and relaxation techniques are some of the options available for patients with lymphoma.
Note: Lymphoma News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.