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Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatments

Choosing a treatment plan for non-Hodgkin lymphoma generally depends on the type and stage of your disease, your overall health, and your personal needs and preferences. The main treatments for non-Hodgkin lymphoma are chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, stem cell transplantation and targeted therapy. Your multidisciplinary team of oncologists and supportive care clinicians work with you to develop a treatment plan tailored to your diagnosis and life.


Chemotherapy may be used to treat all types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, including aggressive and non-aggressive forms, and may also be used to help prevent the disease from recurring. Chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin lymphoma often consists of giving several drugs together in a set regimen. A common form used specifically to treat diffuse large B-cell lymphoma is CHOP chemotherapy, which is a combination of four chemotherapy drugs.

Depending on the regimen, chemotherapy may be administered in pill form, as an injection, or intravenously. You may receive chemotherapy alone, or in combination with other non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatments, such as targeted therapy and radiation therapy.


Several types of immunotherapy drugs are used to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Some immunotherapies, called immunomodulating drugs, affect parts of the immune system, although how they work isn’t clear. Immunomodulating drugs are sometimes used to treat certain types of lymphoma after other treatments have failed. Another treatment, called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, works by altering a patient’s T-cells to add receptors that attach to proteins on the surface of lymphoma cells and attack.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy for non-Hodgkin lymphoma may be used to destroy lymphoma cells or to prevent the cells from growing and reproducing. It may also be used to relieve pain or discomfort caused by an enlarged spleen or swollen lymph nodes. For patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, radiation is generally confined to the lymph nodes and the areas surrounding the lymph nodes.

Depending on your individual needs, we may combine radiation treatment with other therapies, such as targeted therapy and chemotherapy, to prevent the growth of new cancer cells.

Stem cell transplantation

Before a stem cell transplant for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, you will undergo a conditioning regimen that involves intensive treatment, such as high-dose chemotherapy, to destroy as many cancer cells as possible. Following this, you will receive the stem cells intravenously (similar to a blood transfusion). After entering the bloodstream, the stem cells travel to the bone marrow and begin to produce healthy new blood cells in a process known as engraftment.

Sometimes, the high doses of chemotherapy or radiation you receive before the stem cell transplant cause side effects, such as infection. An allogeneic stem cell transplant (using cells from a donor) poses the risk of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), a condition where the donated cells attack the patient’s tissues. Your doctor may prescribe certain drugs to reduce the risk of infection or GVHD.

Targeted therapy

Monoclonal antibody therapy is a type of targeted therapy that uses immune cells engineered in a laboratory. These cells, when injected back into the body, are designed to target specific features in cells, killing them or preventing them from growing.

Monoclonal antibodies may be used alone to target lymphoma cells, or in combination with chemotherapy or radiation therapy drugs.

Next topic: What are the top questions about non-Hodgkin lymphoma?