Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a cancer of the immune system, the part of the body that is meant to control infections. In people with lymphoma, lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) grow out of control and expand in the blood or enlarge lymph nodes throughout the body.
The more than 60 subtypes of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are each managed differently. An expert team is needed to care for these complex diseases. Some of the most common non-Hodgkin's lymphoma subtypes are:
Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a different type of lymphoma that is less common than non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. In Hodgkin’s lymphoma, an abnormal cell called a Reed-Sternberg cell is present.
A correct diagnosis is the key to determining an appropriate treatment plan. At Mass General Brigham, our hematopathologists are recognized internationally for their expertise in diagnosing blood cancers: they were among the leaders in designing the classification system of lymphomas used by doctors worldwide. They have access to state-of-the-art technologies that facilitate the diagnostic process and collaborate with our oncologists and hematologists to provide the best possible patient care. A full range of genetic testing is often used to provide the most detailed understanding of the complex genetic changes that cause a lymphoma to develop.
If you are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, your Mass General Brigham cancer team will work with you and your family to develop a personalized treatment plan and coordinate all aspects of your care. In addition to doctors from various disciplines, your team will include nurses who specialize in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatment along with social workers, nutritionists, psychologists and other professionals experienced in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma care.
Chemotherapy uses drugs (given intravenously or orally) to destroy cancer cells. It is sometimes the first therapy given to patients with some subtypes of lymphoma.
Other newer medications that we use to treat lymphomas include:
Immunotherapy harnesses the power of your own immune system to find and attack cancer cells. It is sometimes used in combination with chemotherapy to treat lymphomas.
CAR T-cell therapy is a form of immunotherapy that involves engineering T-cells (a type of white blood cells) to kill cancer cells. It is one of the newest, most promising treatments for lymphomas — and one of the many state-of-the-art cancer therapies available at Mass General Brigham. Learn more about CAR T-cell therapy.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams, such as X-rays, to shrink or kill cancer cells without damaging healthy normal cells around the tumor. It is sometimes used in combination with chemotherapy to treat lymphoma. Our team offers state-of-the-art radiation therapy in partnership with skilled radiation oncologists.
Some patients with lymphoma may be candidates for proton beam therapy. This advanced form of radiation treatment uses a high-energy, focused proton beam to target tumors with incredible precision. Compared with the use of X-ray beams, proton beam therapy reduces side effects because less radiation goes through the tumor and into normal surrounding tissue. It also delivers a greater concentration of radiation to the desired target, which may improve tumor control and the chance of a cure.
Mass General Brigham is home to the only proton therapy site in New England and brings unparalleled experience in treating cancer with this approach. In fact, we were the world's first center to leverage high-energy protons for medical care. Today, we are leading the way in assessing the effectiveness of proton beam therapy for treating lymphomas. Learn more about proton beam therapy.
Another option for some of our patients is bone marrow transplant. This procedure may involve using stem cells from your own body (autologous transplant) or from a donor (allogeneic transplant). With autologous transplant, stem cells from your bone marrow are collected and stored, administered high-dose chemotherapy and then returned to your body through an infusion. With allogeneic transplant, healthy stem cells usually come from a family member, volunteer donor or blood saved from an umbilical cord.
Our Bone Marrow Transplant program has deep expertise in both procedures and is advancing the field through clinical trials and other research studies.
Meet Mass General Brigham's multidisciplinary team of lymphoma specialists.
Given the many subtypes of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, we offer a large array of clinical trials evaluating new treatments or seeking to improve upon standard treatments. Trials are often available for both new and relapsed disease. Our overall aims are to increase cure rates and decrease side effects from therapy. Your physician will discuss all viable options as part of your treatment planning.
Each year, thousands of patients from more than 140 countries travel to Mass General Brigham for medical care, second opinions and treatments unavailable anywhere else in the world.
Mass General Brigham cancer teams are experienced in caring for lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients who are traveling great distances to our hospitals in Boston. Your medical team here and our international patient services team will help you prepare for and plan the appropriate amount of time to stay in Boston for your appointments and after any procedures. During this recovery time in Boston or back home in your country, our clinical team will monitor your well-being and progressions to continuously optimize your treatment plan and symptoms.
Many of our international patients have questions about everything from travel and lodging to scheduling appointments. Our international patient services team is here to help. We look forward to making your Mass General Brigham experience as healing and stress-free as possible.