Lymphoma is a type of a blood cancer where the lymphocytic white blood cells, which function to protect the body from infections, grow out of control.
“There are over 60 sub-types of lymphoma and there is no one-size-fits-all treatment” says Dr Lee Yuh Shan, a senior consultant at Parkway Cancer Centre who specialises in malignant hematology such as lymphoma.
The lymph nodes around the neck, groin and armpit areas are often the first to signal that the cells have multiplied out of control, and in some cases, transformed into cancerous lymphoma cells. Seek expert advice when there’s painless swelling in these areas and other general symptoms such as fevers, night sweats, loss of weight and lethargy.
“The first steps towards good treatment is getting the correct diagnosis and the Lymphoma sub-type. Knowing the specific Lymphoma sub-type and the genetic profile, helps us to personalise the treatment strategy” says Dr Lee.
Advanced Treatments to Fight Lymphoma
While chemotherapy has been the main form of treatment for lymphoma, medical advancements in recent years have opened the way for targeted therapy and immunotherapy to be used more frequently in clinical practice.
“Immunotherapy is another form of therapy where the patient’s own immune defense is directed or enhanced to attack tumor cells through antibodies, checkpoint inhibitors or vaccines” explains Dr. Lee.
Targeted therapies work differently from immunotherapy by attacking the cancer cells directly. Such methods include switching off the growth signal of cancerous cells, blocking the signals that immortalise cancer cells and releasing toxins into cancerous cells.
“In recent years, there is more evidence coming out from clinical trials, showing the benefit of targeted therapy as compared to conventional chemotherapy” says Dr Lee.
One of the plus points of targeted therapy is that it reduces the damage to normal cells. It also reduces side effects such as low white cell counts, nausea or hair loss.
Dr Lee also points out that “some of the targeted therapy comes in oral form. This means that most of the patients can continue with their treatment out of hospital, and they can continue with their work.”
“Targeted therapy allows us to move gradually towards chemotherapy-free treatment in certain type of Lymphoma and this also allows us to treat the elderly population with better efficacy and less side effects.”
Produced in partnership with Parkway Cancer Centre