Lymphoma - Non-Hodgkin: Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 02/2018

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done now to learn more about NHL and how to treat it. Use the menu to see other pages.

Doctors are working to learn more about NHL, ways to prevent it, how to best treat it, and how to provide the best care to people diagnosed with this disease. The following areas of research may include new options for patients through clinical trials. Always talk with your doctor about the best diagnostic and treatment options for you.

  • Gene profiling. Scientists are learning more about the genetics and the specific role that gene changes, called mutations, have in the development of cancer. As a result, they are better able to classify and diagnose subtypes of NHL. These gene profiling methods can help estimate the prognosis for patients with certain types of lymphoma, and they are used primarily in lymphoma research. However, in the next few years, it is likely that treatments will be designed to target specific genetic changes and counteract their effects.

  • Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is designed to boost the body's natural defenses to fight the cancer. It uses materials made either by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, or restore immune system function. There is ongoing research to re-engineer healthy (not cancerous) T cells to recognize and eliminate lymphoma cells, called CAR T-cell therapy. As explained in Treatment Options, axicabtagene ciloleucel is a recently approved CAR T-cell therapy for the treatment of DLBCL, and others are being tested in clinical trials.

  • Targeted therapies. Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets the cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to the cancer's growth and survival. This type of treatment blocks the growth and spread of cancer cells while limiting damage to healthy cells. As described in Treatment Options, some attach to the surface of tumor cells. Others have radioactive substances or chemotherapy attached to them and can deliver treatment directly to lymphoma cells. There are many targeted treatments for lymphoma in early clinical trials and being studied in laboratories. Those treatments include BCL-2 inhibitors and aurora kinase inhibitors.

  • Vaccines. Several therapeutic vaccines have been studied in clinical trials, mostly for indolent lymphoma (see Subtypes). These vaccines are not meant to prevent lymphoma but to lower the chance that a lymphoma will come back after treatment with chemotherapy or antibody therapy. So far, results from vaccine studies have not shown better results than other treatments, but research to improve vaccines is ongoing.   

  • Other drug studies. Different combinations of chemotherapy and different chemotherapy schedules, sometimes including antibodies or radiolabeled antibodies, are being studied in clinical trials. Researchers are evaluating many new drugs that work differently than standard chemotherapy.

  • Stem cell transplantation. The use of different types of stem cell transplantation is also being tested for patients with newly diagnosed disease and for those who have had a recurrence after the initial treatment. Those types include including allogeneic transplants or reduced-intensity transplants, also called mini-allogeneic or non-ablative transplants. For many types of lymphoma, the best way to use stem cell transplantation is still uncertain. That’s why clinical trials on this treatment are in progress. Learn more about stem cell transplantation.

  • Palliative care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current NHL treatments to improve pati’ comfort and quality of life.

Looking for More About the Latest Research?

If you would like additional information about the latest areas of research regarding NHL, explore these related items that take you outside of this guide:

  • Review recent lymphoma research on the Cancer.Net Blog.

  • Listen to podcasts from an ASCO expert discussing highlights from the American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting in 2018 and 2017.

  • Visit the website of Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation, to find out how to help support cancer research. Please note that this link takes you to a separate ASCO website. 

The next section in this guide is Coping with Treatment. It offers some guidance in how to cope with the physical, emotional, and social changes that cancer and its treatment can bring. You may use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.