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There have been many exciting advances in the field of lymphoma including CLL *

Until the mid-2000’s, treatment options for lymphoma were mostly limited to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Now, people diagnosed with lymphoma and CLL often have newer, more targeted treatment options. The way lymphoma is detected and monitored during therapy is also changing. The purpose of this resource is to help you understand advances in the treatment of lymphoma and what they mean for you.

Diagnosis and Monitoring

A tissue biopsy, which involves removing tissue from the cancer to examine it under the microscope is necessary to confirm a person has lymphoma and to confirm the exact sub type. Knowing the specific subtype of the lymphoma is critical before starting treatment.

Having enough tissue is also very important to make a diagnosis. Very rarely, needle biopsy samples are sufficient to make a definite diagnosis of lymphoma. In most cases, a core biopsy or surgical biopsy is needed to remove enough tissue to diagnose and classify the lymphoma correctly.

The tissue sample removed during the biopsy should be analysed by a pathologist or a hematopathologist who is experienced in diagnosing lymphoma. A pathologist is a doctor who specializes in interpreting laboratory tests and evaluating cells, tissues, and organs to diagnose disease.

Biopsies may be done again later to help guide treatment decisions or if there has been a relapse of the lymphoma. Additional tests can include, scans, x-rays, PET scans, bone marrow biopsy and blood tests.

Knowing the exact subtype of lymphoma via a tissue biopsy is critical before starting treatment

*Lymphoma is the sixth most common cancer with more than 5,000 diagnoses every year (plus a further 1,100 per year for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), which despite its name is now clinically recognised as a form of lymphoma.

What do we mean by ‘newer’ drug treatments?

As researchers have learned more about the changes in cells that cause cancer, they have been able to develop newer drugs that specifically target these changes. These drugs are often referred to as targeted therapy. These drugs work differently from standard chemotherapy drugs and often have different (and less severe) side effects.

Rituximab (MabThera) was the first targeted immunotherapy drug used to treat lymphoma. Other targeted therapies have since been developed, some already in routine use and many in clinical trials (scientific studies that test medical treatments). More targeted treatments are being developed all the time as scientists find out more about the changes that cause cells to go out of control, resulting in lymphoma.

This information is about some of the targeted drugs that are already used in clinical practice or have recently been approved for use in people with lymphoma. As these new treatments become more widely available and more information on how best to use them comes out of clinical trials, they will be used more to treat lymphoma. We have listed types and names of new drugs as well as lymphoma subtypes currently being tested.

PBS approval specifies what types of lymphoma a given drug can be used for. It also states whether the drug can be used as a first-line treatment or only in cases of lymphoma that has relapsed (come back) or is refractory (didn’t respond to treatment).

Only some of the drugs described in this information are available on the PBS. However, you may still be able to access these medicines via clinical trials, compassionate access, self-funding.

This resource is not intended to be a comprehensive list of medicines and clinical trials that are available or being used to treat Lymphoma/ CLL. Ask your medical team if there is a clinical trial that might be suitable for you.