Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that develops in the lymphatic system, the body’s disease fighting network. It is estimated that around 1,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with lymphoma every day. It is typically classified into two groups, Hodgkins lymphoma (HL) and non-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHL), although around 60 biologically distinct subtypes have been identified. While lymphoma is potentially fatal, some forms are curable and a patient’s survival may be greatly enhanced by early diagnosis.
Lymphomas are a very complex group of diseases with differing behaviors and treatment options. While all lymphoma types can be cured or managed as a chronic disease, its complexity and variation do not allow for a one-size-fits-all treatment approach.
Instead, it necessitates highly specialized and individualized approaches. The cause of the majority of lymphoma cases is unknown, however, there could be several factors that may influence one’s risk of developing lymphoma. The relative effects of these factors in any given case of cancer vary and are very difficult to determine with accuracy at present.
Lymphoma biology and immunology have begun an exciting new era in cancer therapy. Unlike most other cancers, the treatment for most of the lymphomas is based on precise pathological subtype more than clinical and radiological stage at the time of diagnosis. The increasing availability of molecular tests has aided the diagnosis of lymphoma, in particular the differential diagnosis of HL and other haematologic malignancies. Lymphoma treatment and prognosis, especially for NHL, are heavily dependent on the disease type and staging. Standard therapy for lymphoma still consists of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which are associated with short and long term toxicities.
Discovery of new treatments for lymphoma that prolong survival and are less toxic than currently available agents represent an urgent unmet need. Emerging novel therapies, such as small molecule and antibodies that preferentially target tumor cells while potentially sparing normal cells, bring new hope to patients with lymphoma.