Immunotherapy is a type of treatment for lymphoma that prompts the immune system to destroy abnormal cells. The immune system is responsible for detecting and destroying abnormal cells throughout the body. By enhancing its regular function, it’s possible to use the immune system to help treat lymphoma. Essentially, immunotherapy stimulates the immune system to more efficiently identify and destroy cancer cells in the body. Various types of immunotherapy have been studied and used for decades, but new therapies are constantly being developed and researched. Immunotherapy is an innovative treatment option that works better for some cancers than others. It is sometimes used on its own, and other times it is used alongside other treatments.
Treatment options for lymphoma vary based on numerous factors. Both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma can benefit from immunotherapy, but the type of cancer being treated can impact a patient’s specific treatment plan. There is currently a wide range of FDA-approved immunotherapy options for lymphoma.
Types of immunotherapy used for lymphoma treatment
There are several different types of immunotherapy for lymphoma. These include:
- Monoclonal antibodies – These antibodies work by binding to proteins found on the surface of cancerous cells. There, they can block cell growth, help the immune system locate cancerous cells that need to be destroyed or cause the cancerous cells to self-destruct. This was the first type of immunotherapy to be developed for lymphoma treatment, and one such drug (rituximab) is now considered to be a primary treatment option for B-cell lymphomas.
- Checkpoint inhibitors – These inhibitors work by helping the body’s T cells (immune system cells that destroy abnormal cells) recognize and destroy cancerous cells that might otherwise go undetected.
- Cellular Immunotherapy – This treatment works by genetically modifying a patient’s own T cells so that they can more effectively recognize, target and destroy cancerous cells. One such option is chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, which programs a patient’s T cells to recognize specific proteins that are present on lymphoma cells (but not on healthy cells).
- Therapeutic cancer vaccines – These vaccines work by encouraging the immune system to attack cells that carry tumor-specific antigens. Some options are administered under the skin or intravenously (into a vein), while others are delivered directly to a tumor.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, our team is always investigating new treatments for lymphoma, including immunotherapies. As a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, we’re continually developing new ways to help the immune system recognize cancer cells and respond to them more effectively, giving patients a broader range of options for lymphoma treatment. For instance, we treated the first patient in the nation with KTE-C19 (a CAR T-cell therapy) for aggressive, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and since then many more patients in our center have been able to benefit of this new therapy. This is just one example of our commitment to helping patients access novel therapies as soon as they become available.
To learn more about immunotherapy for lymphoma, call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online. Our hematologists and oncologists can help you explore all of your potential treatment options; no referral is required.