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Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment (PDQ®)

Health Professional Version
Last Modified: 08/22/2014

General Information About Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL)

Incidence and Mortality
Anatomy
Prognosis and Survival

The NHLs are a heterogeneous group of lymphoproliferative malignancies with differing patterns of behavior and responses to treatment.[1]

Like Hodgkin lymphoma, NHL usually originates in lymphoid tissues and can spread to other organs. NHL, however, is much less predictable than Hodgkin lymphoma and has a far greater predilection to disseminate to extranodal sites. The prognosis depends on the histologic type, stage, and treatment.

Incidence and Mortality

Estimated new cases and deaths from NHL in the United States in 2014:[2]

  • New cases: 70,800.
  • Deaths: 18,990.
Anatomy

NHL usually originates in lymphoid tissues.

Enlarge
Lymph system; drawing shows the lymph vessels and lymph organs including the lymph nodes, tonsils, thymus, spleen, and bone marrow.  One inset shows the inside structure of a lymph node and the attached lymph vessels with arrows showing how the lymph (clear fluid) moves into and out of the lymph node. Another inset shows a close up of bone marrow with blood cells.
Anatomy of the lymph system.
Prognosis and Survival

The NHLs can be divided into two prognostic groups: the indolent lymphomas and the aggressive lymphomas.

Indolent NHL types have a relatively good prognosis with a median survival as long as 20 years, but they usually are not curable in advanced clinical stages.[3] Early-stage (stage I and stage II) indolent NHL can be effectively treated with radiation therapy alone. Most of the indolent types are nodular (or follicular) in morphology.

The aggressive type of NHL has a shorter natural history, but a significant number of these patients can be cured with intensive combination chemotherapy regimens.

In general, with modern treatment of patients with NHL, overall survival at 5 years is over 60%. Of patients with aggressive NHL, more than 50% can be cured. The vast majority of relapses occur in the first 2 years after therapy. The risk of late relapse is higher in patients who manifest both indolent and aggressive histologies.[4]

While indolent NHL is responsive to immunotherapy, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, a continuous rate of relapse is usually seen in advanced stages. Patients, however, can often be re-treated with considerable success as long as the disease histology remains low grade. Patients who present with or convert to aggressive forms of NHL may have sustained complete remissions with combination chemotherapy regimens or aggressive consolidation with marrow or stem cell support.[5,6]

References
  1. Shankland KR, Armitage JO, Hancock BW: Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Lancet 380 (9844): 848-57, 2012.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  2. American Cancer Society: Cancer Facts and Figures 2014. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society, 2014. Available online. Last accessed May 21, 2014. 

  3. Tan D, Horning SJ, Hoppe RT, et al.: Improvements in observed and relative survival in follicular grade 1-2 lymphoma during 4 decades: the Stanford University experience. Blood 122 (6): 981-7, 2013.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  4. Cabanillas F, Velasquez WS, Hagemeister FB, et al.: Clinical, biologic, and histologic features of late relapses in diffuse large cell lymphoma. Blood 79 (4): 1024-8, 1992.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  5. Bastion Y, Sebban C, Berger F, et al.: Incidence, predictive factors, and outcome of lymphoma transformation in follicular lymphoma patients. J Clin Oncol 15 (4): 1587-94, 1997.  [PUBMED Abstract]

  6. Yuen AR, Kamel OW, Halpern J, et al.: Long-term survival after histologic transformation of low-grade follicular lymphoma. J Clin Oncol 13 (7): 1726-33, 1995.  [PUBMED Abstract]