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Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: Targeted Therapy

What is targeted therapy?

Targeted therapy uses medicines that attack certain parts of cancer cells. These medicines target proteins or cell functions that help cancer cells stay alive, grow, and divide. They're different from chemotherapy (chemo) medicines. They may work when chemo doesn’t. Targeted therapy focuses on cancer cells. These medicines mostly leave healthy cells alone. So the side effects are often different and less severe than those of chemotherapy medicines.

When is targeted therapy used for non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

Targeted medicines can be used to treat some types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. They're used most often after other treatments have been tried. But some targeted therapies are used earlier. Targeted therapy is often given along with chemotherapy.

Your lymphoma cells will be tested to look for changes in the cells that can be matched with a medicine that targets those changes.

What targeted therapy medicines are used to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

The targeted medicines used to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma include:

  • Kinase inhibitors

  • Proteasome inhibitors

  • HDAC (histone deacetylase) inhibitors

Kinase inhibitors

Kinases are proteins in cells that help send signals to the control center inside the cell. Some kinases help lymphoma cells grow or stay alive. Medicines that block these kinases are called kinase inhibitors. They can help slow or stop the growth of some types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma cells. These medicines include:

  • Ibrutinib. This medicine blocks a protein called BTK, which helps lymphoma cells grow and stay alive. This medicine can be used to treat mantle cell and some other lymphomas. It's taken daily as a pill. Side effects can include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, swelling, changes in bowel movements, feeling tired, and low blood cell counts.

  • Idelalisib. This medicine blocks a kinase known as PI3K. This medicine can be used to treat follicular and some other lymphomas. It's taken as a pill, often twice a day. Side effects can include fever, feeling tired, nausea, diarrhea, cough, belly pain, rash, and low blood cell counts. 

There are also other kinase inhibitors used to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Proteasome inhibitors

Proteasomes act like tiny garbage disposal units inside cells. They get rid of proteins the cell doesn't need. This can affect cell growth. Proteasome inhibitors stop proteasomes so they don't destroy proteins. As the proteins build up inside the lymphoma cells, they can kill them.

Medicines that block proteasomes can be used to treat some types of lymphoma. One medicine is called bortezomib. It can be given through an IV (intravenous line) into a vein or as a shot underneath the skin (subcutaneously). Side effects can include nausea, appetite loss, and low blood cell counts. It can also cause nerve damage. This can lead to numbness, tingling, or pain in the hands and feet.  

HDAC inhibitors

HDAC (histone deacetylase) inhibitors are medicines that affect histones. These are proteins that affect the genes in cells, which can alter how the cells grow. HDAC inhibitors can be used to treat some types of T-cell lymphomas, including skin lymphomas.

Examples of these medicines include romidepsin and belinostat. These medicines are given through an IV into a vein. Side effects can include nausea, vomiting, feeling tired, and low blood cell counts.

Online Medical Reviewer: Kimberly Stump-Sutliff RN MSN AOCNS
Online Medical Reviewer: Lu Cunningham RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Richard LoCicero MD
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2020
© 2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.