Targeted therapy for non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Targeted therapy drugs attack specific particles (molecules) in cancer cells to stop the cancer growing or to reduce its size.
Learn more about:
- What are monoclonal antibodies?
- Having monoclonal antibodies
- Side effects of targeted therapy
- Small molecule inhibitors
- Video: What is targeted therapy
Some types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are treated with a group of targeted therapy drugs called monoclonal antibodies.
Monoclonal antibodies are manufactured versions of immune system proteins called antibodies, which are part of the body’s natural defence against infection. These antibodies target and attach to cancer cells. This makes it easier for the body’s immune system to find and destroy these cells.
The monoclonal antibody most commonly used for non-Hodgkin lymphoma is rituximab, which can treat many types of B-cell lymphomas. It does not work for T-cell or NK-cell lymphomas. Some B-cell lymphomas that do respond to rituximab may become resistant.
Monoclonal antibodies are generally given through a drip into a vein or as an injection under the skin. They are usually combined with chemotherapy and are commonly given in repeating cycles. Talk to your doctor about your specific treatment schedule.
Side effects of monoclonal antibody therapy
Your doctor will discuss any potential side effects with you before you start treatment. Some people may have a reaction (e.g. nausea, skin rashes and itching) during or several hours after having these drugs. You will probably be given medicine to help prevent such a reaction and you will have regular check-ups during treatment. Other side effects can include headache, fatigue, anaemia, flu-like symptoms and an increased risk of abnormal bleeding.
In some people, rituximab can reactivate some viral infections, such as hepatitis B. It can also increase your risk of getting another infection. It is important to discuss any side effects with your doctor immediately. If left untreated, some symptoms can become life-threatening.
Small molecule inhibitorsSmall molecule inhibitors are another type of targeted therapy. These drugs can get inside cancer cells and block certain enzymes that tell the cancer cells to grow. Two small molecule inhibitors, ibrutinib and idelalisib are used to treat some types of low-grade lymphoma that have not responded to treatment or have come back. Talk with your doctor about whether these treatments (or another drug available on a clinical trial) are suitable for your situation. These drugs have the potential to cause a variety of side effects – your doctor will discuss these with you before treatment.
Video: What is targeted therapy?
Watch this short video to learn more about targeted and immunotherapy.
Podcast: Immunotherapy & Targeted Therapy
Dr Ian Bilmon, Haematologist, Westmead and Sydney Adventist Hospitals; Dr Anne Capp, Radiation Oncologist, Calvary Mater Newcastle; Rachelle Frith, Clinical Nurse Consultant Haematology, Prince of Wales Hospital; Jason Gardner, Consumer; A/Prof Angela Hong, Radiation Oncologist, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, and Clinical Professor, The University of Sydney; Yvonne King, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Samantha Rennie, Social Worker, Cancer Services, St George Hospital. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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