Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma - Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Diseases / Research

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

non-hodgkin images

Two types of Non Hodgkin Lymphoma: Follicular Lymphoma (left) is organized into clear follicles or nodules within the lymph node; diffuse lymphoma (right) consists of cancerous cells that infiltrate the lymph node in a homogeneous pattern.

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Fred Hutch scientists are leaders in developing new therapies for non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Our researchers are developing drugs and immunotherapies to treat lymphomas, and are also finding new ways to make treatments less toxic.

Our scientists are researching many types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma including small lymphocytic lymphoma; follicular lymphoma; marginal zone lymphoma, mantle cell lymphoma; diffuse large B-cell lymphoma; Burkitt lymphoma; AIDS-related B-cell lymphoma; peripheral T-cell lymphoma and adult T-cell lymphoma.

Fast Facts


  • Lymphomas are a group of cancers that strike the lymphatic system, an essential component of the body's immune system. Lymphomas are characterized by how they develop, respond to treatment and other factors.
  • There are several types of non-Hodgkin lymphomas. They are characterized as either aggressive (fast-growing) or indolent (slow-growing) types, and they can be formed from either B-cells or T-cells.
  • Some non-Hodgkin lymphomas are caused by infections from viruses including HIV, hepatitis C and Epstein-Barr. A weakened immune system can also contribute to the development of non-Hodgkin lymphomas.
  • The National Cancer Institute estimates that in 2011 there were more than 66,000 new cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma reported in the United States.

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Prevention & Causes

Understanding Burkitt lymphoma — Burkitt lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma common in sub-Saharan Africa, is linked to infection with Epstein-Barr virus, or EBV. Researchers in Fred Hutch Global Oncology and the Hutch’s Pathogen-Associated Malignancies Integrated Research Center are learning more about cancers like these that are caused directly or indirectly by infectious agents. Their goal is to develop new ways to prevent and treat the infections as well as the tumors to reduce the global cancer burden. Learn more >

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Treatment & Prognosis

CAR T-cell therapy for advanced lymphoma  Fred Hutch researchers including Drs. Stanley Riddell, David Maloney and Cameron Turtle are contributing landmark discoveries about how to engineer immune cells called T cells for cancer therapy. Their focus is on developing and testing CAR T cells (CAR stands for chimeric antigen receptor), which are genetically reprogrammed to target the patient's disease. Results from a CAR T-cell therapy clinical trial that included patients with advanced non-Hodgkin lymphoma have shown promising, even dramatic responses. By selecting the best T cells from each patient and carefully controlling the composition of treatments, our scientists are continuing to achieve more predictable, consistent and lasting therapeutic effects in patients. Learn more >

Making immunotherapy safer – While CAR T-cell therapy can harness the immune system to fight cancer, it also can produce toxic, potentially life-threatening side effects. Fred Hutch researchers have identified potential biomarkers associated with the development of such side effects. They also have created computer algorithms to identify the rare patients whose symptoms are most likely to turn deadly. The researchers anticipate that their work could eventually help reduce the risk of the severe treatment-related side effects for patients who receive CAR T-cell therapies in the future. Learn more >

Developing therapies for follicular lymphomaDr. Oliver Press and colleagues developed a therapy for follicular lymphoma, a slow-growing form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that is usually diagnosed at an advanced, incurable stage. The treatment consists of six cycles of a four-drug chemotherapy regimen for lymphoma, followed by treatment with Bexxar, the trade name for a radioactively-tagged antibody, to destroy cancer cells. Learn more >

Spearheading new medications — Our researchers pioneered use of an antibody to treat some forms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Work by Dr. David Maloney was instrumental in developing Rituximab, the first medication of its kind approved in the United States for treating malignant disease—and the one of the best-selling anticancer drugs. About half of patients treated with this drug see their cancers go into remission.

Listen to a webcast with Dr. David Maloney >

Making treatments less toxic — Dr. Ajay Gopal and colleagues have discovered new ways to target treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma that reduces damage in healthy tissue. Using radioactively tagged proteins that bind to tumors, physicians can deliver very high doses of radiation that minimize damage to surrounding healthy cells. The treatment is particulary safer and more effective for elderly patients. Learn more >

Pioneering bone marrow transplantation – Led by Nobel Prize recipient Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, Fred Hutch researchers have transformed bone marrow transplantation into standard treatment for leukemia, lymphoma and other blood cancers. The procedure is one of cancer treatment's biggest success stories and has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients. Learn more >

Reducing radiation in transplants — By minimizing the radiation patients receive before their bone marrow transplant, Hutch researchers have helped make this life-saving procedure less available to more patients, with similar results as traditional bone marrow transplants. Learn more >

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Improving Survival

Understanding chemobrain – Research by Dr. Karen Syrjala shows that the decline in mental skills experienced by many bone marrow and stem cell transplant patients is largely temporary. Patients who experience these symptoms usually return to normal mental function with a year of their transplant, and will continue to improve long-term. Learn more >

A bright future for survivors – A study by Dr. Syrjala shows that, after 10 years, many survivors of stem cell transplants are nearly as healthy as people who didnt undergo the procedure. Both populations had similar rates of asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and osteoporosis. They also had similar psychological health, marital satisfaction and employment. Learn more >

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