Treatment Option Overview
Many of the improvements in childhood cancer survival have been made using combinations of known and/or new agents that have attempted to improve the best available, accepted therapy. Clinical trials in pediatrics are designed to compare potentially better therapy with therapy that is currently accepted as standard. This comparison may be done in a randomized study of two treatment arms or by evaluating a single new treatment and comparing the results with those previously obtained with standard therapy.
All children with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) should be considered for entry into a clinical trial. Treatment planning by a multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists with experience treating tumors of childhood is strongly recommended to determine, coordinate, and implement treatment to achieve optimal survival. Children with NHL should be referred for treatment by a multidisciplinary team of pediatric oncologists at an institution with experience in treating pediatric cancers. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.
NHL in children is generally considered to be widely disseminated from the outset, even when apparently localized; as a result, combination chemotherapy is recommended for most patients.
In contrast to the treatment of adults with NHL, the use of radiation therapy is limited in children with NHL. Early studies demonstrated that the routine use of radiation had no benefit for low-stage (I or II) NHL. It has been demonstrated that prophylactic central nervous system (CNS) radiation can be omitted in lymphoblastic lymphoma.[3,4] It has also been demonstrated that CNS radiation can be eliminated for patients with anaplastic large cell lymphoma and B-cell NHL, even for patients who present with CNS disease.[5,6] Further data to support the limited use of radiation in pediatric NHL comes from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. This analysis demonstrated that radiation was a significant risk factor for secondary malignancy and death in long-term survivors.
Treatment of NHL in childhood and adolescence has historically been based on clinical behavior and response to treatment. A study by the Children’s Cancer Group demonstrated that the outcome for lymphoblastic NHL was superior with longer acute lymphoblastic leukemia–like therapy, while nonlymphoblastic NHL (Burkitt lymphoma) had superior outcome with short, intensive, pulsed therapy.
There are two potentially life-threatening clinical situations that are often seen in children with NHL: (1) mediastinal masses and (2) tumor lysis syndrome, most often seen in lymphoblastic and Burkitt or Burkitt-like NHL. These emergent situations should be anticipated in children with NHL and addressed immediately.
Patients with large mediastinal masses are at risk of cardiac or respiratory arrest during general anesthesia or heavy sedation. Due to the risks of general anesthesia or heavy sedation, a careful physiologic and radiographic evaluation of the patient should be carried out and the least invasive procedure should be used to establish the diagnosis of lymphoma.[10,11] Bone marrow aspirate and biopsy should always be performed early in the workup of these patients. If a pleural effusion is present, a cytologic diagnosis is frequently possible using thoracentesis. In those children who present with peripheral adenopathy, a lymph node biopsy under local anesthesia and in an upright position may be possible. In situations in which the above diagnostic procedures are not fruitful, consideration of a computed tomography (CT)–guided core needle biopsy should be contemplated. This procedure can frequently be carried out using light sedation and local anesthesia before proceeding to more invasive procedures. Care should be taken to keep patients out of a supine position. Most procedures, including CT scans, can be done with the patient on their side or prone. Mediastinoscopy, anterior mediastinotomy, or thoracoscopy are the procedures of choice when other diagnostic modalities fail to establish the diagnosis. A formal thoracotomy is rarely, if ever, indicated for the diagnosis or treatment of childhood lymphoma. Occasionally, it will not be possible to perform a diagnostic operative procedure because of the risk of general anesthesia or heavy sedation. In these situations, preoperative treatment with steroids or localized radiation therapy should be considered. Since preoperative treatment may affect the ability to obtain an accurate tissue diagnosis, a diagnostic biopsy should be obtained as soon as the risk of general anesthesia or heavy sedation is thought to be alleviated.
Tumor lysis syndrome
Tumor lysis syndrome results from rapid breakdown of malignant cells, resulting in a number of metabolic abnormalities, most notably hyperuricemia, hyperkalemia, and hyperphosphatemia. Hyperhydration and allopurinol or rasburicase (urate oxidase) are essential components of therapy in all patients except those with the most limited disease.[13-17] An initial prephase consisting of low-dose cyclophosphamide and vincristine does not obviate the need for allopurinol or rasburicase and hydration. Gastrointestinal bleeding, obstruction, and (rarely) perforation may occur. Hyperuricemia and tumor lysis syndrome, particularly when associated with ureteral obstruction, frequently result in life-threatening complications. Patients with NHL should be managed only in institutions having pediatric tertiary care facilities.
Role of Radiographic Imaging in Childhood NHL
Radiographic imaging is essential in the staging of patients with NHL. Ultrasound may be the preferred method for assessment of an abdominal mass, but CT scan and, more recently, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) have been used for staging. Radionucleotide bone scans should be considered for patients where bone involvement is suspected.
The role of functional imaging in pediatric NHL is controversial. Gallium scans have been replaced by fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (PET) scanning, which is now routinely performed at many centers. A review of the revised International Workshop Criteria comparing CT imaging alone or CT together with PET imaging demonstrated that the combination of CT and PET imaging was more accurate than CT imaging alone.[19,20] While the International Harmonization Project for PET (now called the International Working Group) response criteria have been attempted in adults, they have yet to be evaluated in pediatric populations.[18,21] This International Working Group has updated their response criteria for malignant lymphoma to include PET, immunohistochemistry, and flow cytometry data.
The value of PET scanning for staging pediatric NHL is under investigation. Data support that PET identifies more abnormalities than CT scanning, but it is unclear whether this should be used to change therapy.
The use of PET to assess rapidity of response to therapy appears to have prognostic value in Hodgkin lymphoma and some types of NHL observed in adult patients, and this is also under investigation in pediatric NHL. However, there are no data in pediatric NHL to support the hypothesis that early response to therapy assessed by PET has prognostic value.
Caution should be used in making the diagnosis of relapsed disease based solely on imaging because false-positive results are common.[24-28] There are also data demonstrating that PET scanning can produce false-negative results. Before undertaking changes in therapy based on residual masses noted by imaging, a biopsy to prove residual disease is warranted.
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- Link MP, Shuster JJ, Donaldson SS, et al.: Treatment of children and young adults with early-stage non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. N Engl J Med 337 (18): 1259-66, 1997. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Burkhardt B, Woessmann W, Zimmermann M, et al.: Impact of cranial radiotherapy on central nervous system prophylaxis in children and adolescents with central nervous system-negative stage III or IV lymphoblastic lymphoma. J Clin Oncol 24 (3): 491-9, 2006. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Sandlund JT, Pui CH, Zhou Y, et al.: Effective treatment of advanced-stage childhood lymphoblastic lymphoma without prophylactic cranial irradiation: results of St Jude NHL13 study. Leukemia 23 (6): 1127-30, 2009. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Seidemann K, Tiemann M, Schrappe M, et al.: Short-pulse B-non-Hodgkin lymphoma-type chemotherapy is efficacious treatment for pediatric anaplastic large cell lymphoma: a report of the Berlin-Frankfurt-Münster Group Trial NHL-BFM 90. Blood 97 (12): 3699-706, 2001. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Cairo MS, Gerrard M, Sposto R, et al.: Results of a randomized international study of high-risk central nervous system B non-Hodgkin lymphoma and B acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children and adolescents. Blood 109 (7): 2736-43, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Bluhm EC, Ronckers C, Hayashi RJ, et al.: Cause-specific mortality and second cancer incidence after non-Hodgkin lymphoma: a report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Blood 111 (8): 4014-21, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Anderson JR, Jenkin RD, Wilson JF, et al.: Long-term follow-up of patients treated with COMP or LSA2L2 therapy for childhood non-Hodgkin's lymphoma: a report of CCG-551 from the Childrens Cancer Group. J Clin Oncol 11 (6): 1024-32, 1993. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Azizkhan RG, Dudgeon DL, Buck JR, et al.: Life-threatening airway obstruction as a complication to the management of mediastinal masses in children. J Pediatr Surg 20 (6): 816-22, 1985. [PUBMED Abstract]
- King DR, Patrick LE, Ginn-Pease ME, et al.: Pulmonary function is compromised in children with mediastinal lymphoma. J Pediatr Surg 32 (2): 294-9; discussion 299-300, 1997. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Shamberger RC, Holzman RS, Griscom NT, et al.: Prospective evaluation by computed tomography and pulmonary function tests of children with mediastinal masses. Surgery 118 (3): 468-71, 1995. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Prakash UB, Abel MD, Hubmayr RD: Mediastinal mass and tracheal obstruction during general anesthesia. Mayo Clin Proc 63 (10): 1004-11, 1988. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Pui CH, Mahmoud HH, Wiley JM, et al.: Recombinant urate oxidase for the prophylaxis or treatment of hyperuricemia in patients With leukemia or lymphoma. J Clin Oncol 19 (3): 697-704, 2001. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Goldman SC, Holcenberg JS, Finklestein JZ, et al.: A randomized comparison between rasburicase and allopurinol in children with lymphoma or leukemia at high risk for tumor lysis. Blood 97 (10): 2998-3003, 2001. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Cairo MS, Bishop M: Tumour lysis syndrome: new therapeutic strategies and classification. Br J Haematol 127 (1): 3-11, 2004. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Cairo MS, Coiffier B, Reiter A, et al.: Recommendations for the evaluation of risk and prophylaxis of tumour lysis syndrome (TLS) in adults and children with malignant diseases: an expert TLS panel consensus. Br J Haematol 149 (4): 578-86, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Galardy PJ, Hochberg J, Perkins SL, et al.: Rasburicase in the prevention of laboratory/clinical tumour lysis syndrome in children with advanced mature B-NHL: a Children's Oncology Group Report. Br J Haematol 163 (3): 365-72, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Juweid ME, Stroobants S, Hoekstra OS, et al.: Use of positron emission tomography for response assessment of lymphoma: consensus of the Imaging Subcommittee of International Harmonization Project in Lymphoma. J Clin Oncol 25 (5): 571-8, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Brepoels L, Stroobants S, De Wever W, et al.: Hodgkin lymphoma: Response assessment by revised International Workshop Criteria. Leuk Lymphoma 48 (8): 1539-47, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Cheson BD, Pfistner B, Juweid ME, et al.: Revised response criteria for malignant lymphoma. J Clin Oncol 25 (5): 579-86, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Cheson BD: The International Harmonization Project for response criteria in lymphoma clinical trials. Hematol Oncol Clin North Am 21 (5): 841-54, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Bakhshi S, Radhakrishnan V, Sharma P, et al.: Pediatric nonlymphoblastic non-Hodgkin lymphoma: baseline, interim, and posttreatment PET/CT versus contrast-enhanced CT for evaluation--a prospective study. Radiology 262 (3): 956-68, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Cheng G, Servaes S, Zhuang H: Value of (18)F-fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose positron emission tomography/computed tomography scan versus diagnostic contrast computed tomography in initial staging of pediatric patients with lymphoma. Leuk Lymphoma 54 (4): 737-42, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Nasr A, Stulberg J, Weitzman S, et al.: Assessment of residual posttreatment masses in Hodgkin's disease and the need for biopsy in children. J Pediatr Surg 41 (5): 972-4, 2006. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Levine JM, Weiner M, Kelly KM: Routine use of PET scans after completion of therapy in pediatric Hodgkin disease results in a high false positive rate. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 28 (11): 711-4, 2006. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Rhodes MM, Delbeke D, Whitlock JA, et al.: Utility of FDG-PET/CT in follow-up of children treated for Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 28 (5): 300-6, 2006. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Meany HJ, Gidvani VK, Minniti CP: Utility of PET scans to predict disease relapse in pediatric patients with Hodgkin lymphoma. Pediatr Blood Cancer 48 (4): 399-402, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Nakatani K, Nakamoto Y, Watanabe K, et al.: Roles and limitations of FDG PET in pediatric non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Clin Nucl Med 37 (7): 656-62, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
- Picardi M, De Renzo A, Pane F, et al.: Randomized comparison of consolidation radiation versus observation in bulky Hodgkin's lymphoma with post-chemotherapy negative positron emission tomography scans. Leuk Lymphoma 48 (9): 1721-7, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]