Types of Lymphoma

Lymphoma refers to a family of cancers of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system includes the organs, tissues and vessels in the immune system responsible for fighting disease and infection throughout the body. When lymphocytes -- the white blood cells of the lymphatic system -- undergo a malignant change, they abnormally reproduce, creating tumors and crowding out healthy cells.

All Types of Lymphoma Treated

While a diagnosis of lymphoma sounds frightening, patients and families affected by lymphomas have reason to be optimistic. University of Chicago physicians treat patients with every type of lymphoma -- from B-cell lymphoma to more rare types, such as T-cell lymphoma.

Innovative Treatments Backed by Leading Research

We are on the leading edge of testing new therapies for lymphomas and have extensive knowledge in aggressively treating lymphomas that relapse or don’t respond well to traditional treatments. We currently offer 15 clinical trials, including phase 1 and phase 2 trials for all subtypes of lymphoma. The same experts who treat our patients are the ones who have been awarded nationally-funded grants aimed at understanding lymphoma and at discovering new ways to treat the disease by chemotherapy, targeted therapy and both autologous and allogeneic stem cell transplant.

Lymphomas are divided into two categories: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphomas.

Hodgkin Lymphoma (HL)

Hodgkin lymphoma can arise anywhere in the body where lymphocytes are found. HL has characteristics that differentiate it from all of the other types of lymphoma, most notably the presence of a cell called the Reed-Sternberg cell. A Reed-Sternberg cell (named for the two scientists who discovered it) is a large, abnormal cell that does not protect the body from infection. When it abnormally multiplies it often forms a tumor within a lymph node and attracts inflammatory cells around it.

Hodgkin lymphoma affects more than 8,000 adults and children in the United States each year. Cure rates for HL are as high as 70 to 80 percent. While the cause is unknown, certain factors have been shown to increase the risk of developing Hodgkin lymphoma.

Treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma may include chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. In certain cases, bone marrow or stem cell transplant may be recommended, especially if the disease does not respond to initial treatment or if it returns despite an initial response to treatment. »Read more about Hodgkin lymphoma in our online library

Non-Hodgkin Lymphomas (NHL)

Marlene Markovich and Sonali Smith, MD When Marlene Markovich, left, was diagnosed with late stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma, she felt she had "one good chance." She turned to Sonali Smith, MD, right, for help. Markovich enrolled in a clinical trial that helped her reach remission.

Non-Hodgkin lymphomas comprise a varied group of lymphomas characterized by the specific type of cancer cells found in each one. Each type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is treated differently based on the type of cancer cell and its rate of growth. Slow-growing lymphomas are referred to as low-grade or indolent. Fast-growing lymphomas are referred to as high-grade or aggressive.

Non-Hodgkin lymphomas will affect more than 60,000 adults and children each year and is the fifth most common type of cancer in the United States. Some variants of aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma can be cured in up to 60 percent of patients. The causes are unknown, but certain factors have been shown to increase the risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphomas.

Treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immune therapy, or a combination of the three treatments. Bone marrow or stem cell transplant may be recommended. In some cases surgery is necessary for diagnostic purposes. »Read more about non-Hodgkin lymphoma in our online library

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