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 is available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for some people with relapsed or refractory Hodgkin lymphoma. It is given into a vein through a drip (intravenous infusion), often every three weeks.
Another targeted therapy drug called rituximab may be used to treat people with the less common subtype nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma (NLPHL). 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 on the PBS for some people with relapsed or refractory Hodgkin lymphoma. It is given as an intravenous infusion every three weeks.
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
Dr Abir Bhattacharyya, Bone Marrow Transplant and General Haematologist, Westmead Hospital; Katrina Debosz, Blood Cancer Nurse Practitioner, Institute of Haematology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital; Taylah Dvorak, Consumer; Erinna Ford, Consumer; Dr Nada Hamad, Senior Staff Specialist, Bone Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapies, and Clinical and Laboratory Haematologist, The Kinghorn Cancer Centre, St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney; Prof Angela Hong, Radiation Oncologist, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, and Clinical Professor, The University of Sydney; Suzanne Hough, Senior Clinical Dietitian, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Westmead Hospital; Yvonne King, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Samantha Rennie, Social Worker – Haematology, St George Hospital, Sydney.
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