Targeted therapy and immunotherapy
People with Hodgkin lymphoma that has come back (relapsed) or hasn’t fully responded to initial treatment (refractory) may be able to have new drug therapies in certain circumstances.
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Targeted therapy drugs attack specific features of cancer cells to stop the cancer growing or to reduce its size. A drug called brentuximab vedotin combines a targeted therapy drug with a chemotherapy drug.
Brentuximab vedotin may be used for some people with relapsed or refractory Hodgkin lymphoma. It is usually given through a drip inserted into a vein in the arm (intravenous infusion) every 3 weeks.
Rituximab may be used to treat people with the less common subtype nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma (NLPHL, also called nodular lymphocyte-predominant B-cell lymphoma). NLPHL cells make a protein called CD20, and rituximab targets this protein. Rituximab is given into a vein through a drip (intravenous infusion).
Clinical trials are testing other targeted therapy drugs for Hodgkin lymphoma. Ask your doctor about the latest developments.
Side effects of targeted therapy
The side effects of brentuximab vedotin may include nausea, fatigue, increased risk of infection and bleeding, and numbness, tingling and sometimes pain in the hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy). Common side effects of rituximab include headaches, fever and skin rash.
This type of drug therapy uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. An immunotherapy drug called pembrolizumab is available for some people with relapsed or refractory Hodgkin lymphoma. It is usually given as an intravenous infusion every 3 weeks. Pembrolizumab can be used alone or combined with chemotherapy.
Other immunotherapy drugs for Hodgkin lymphoma may be available through clinical trials. Ask your doctor about the latest developments in immunotherapy for Hodgkin lymphoma.
Side effects of immunotherapy
Immunotherapy can cause inflammation in any of the organs of the body, leading to side effects such as fatigue, skin rash and diarrhoea. The inflammation can lead to more serious side effects in some people, but this will be monitored closely and managed quickly.
Video: What are targeted therapy and immunotherapy?
If you have cancer, drug therapy may play a big role in your treatment plan. Watch this short video to learn more about drug therapies, including targeted and immunotherapy.
Podcast: Immunotherapy & Targeted Therapy
Prof Mark Hertzberg AM, Head, Department of Haematology, Prince of Wales Hospital; Dr Puja Bhattacharyya, Haematology Staff Specialist, Western Sydney Local Health District – Blacktown Hospital; A/Prof Susan Carroll, Senior Staff Specialist, Radiation Oncology, Royal North Shore Hospital and University of Sydney; Gerry Flanagan, Consumer; Alisha Ganesh, Haematology Clinical Nurse Consultant, Concord Repatriation General Hospital; Kelly King, Cancer Council Liaison, Central Coast Cancer Centre; Ilana Krug, Social Worker – Haematology and Oncology, Gosford Hospital; Amy McGee, Consumer.
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