Which factors have prognostic significance in non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)?

Updated: Feb 25, 2021
  • Author: Sanjay Vinjamaram, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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Biomarkers in tumor cells such as the expression of bcl- 2 or bcl- 6 proteins and cDNA microarray provide useful prognostic information.

Patients with congenital or acquired immunodeficiency have an increased risk of lymphoma and respond poorly to therapy.

Time to achieve complete remission (CR) and response duration has prognostic significance. Patients who do not achieve CR by the third cycle of chemotherapy have a worse prognosis than those who achieve rapid CR.

Immunophenotype is also a factor. Patients with aggressive T- or NK-cell lymphomas generally have worse prognoses than those with B-cell lymphomas, except the Ki-1 anaplastic large T- or null-cell lymphomas.

Cytogenetic abnormalities and oncogene expression affect prognosis. Patients with lymphomas with 1, 7, and 17 chromosomal abnormalities have worse prognoses than those with lymphomas without these changes.

Low-grade lymphomas have indolent clinical behavior and are associated with a comparatively prolonged survival (median survival is 6-10 y), but they have little potential for cure when the disease manifests in more advanced stages. They also have the tendency to transform to high-grade lymphomas.

Approximately 70% of all patients with intermediate- and high-grade NHL relapse or never respond to initial therapy. Most recurrences are within the first 2 years after therapy completion. Patients with relapsed or resistant NHL have a very poor prognosis (< 5-10% are alive at 2 years with conventional salvage chemotherapy regimens).

Drake et al found that low levels of vitamin D were associated with a decrease in clinical end points (event-free survival and overall survival) in subsets of patients with aggressive B-cell lymphoma (ie, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma or T-cell lymphoma). [12] Although the results of this study suggest an association between vitamin D levels and its metabolism with the biology of some aggressive lymphomas, further studies are needed before conclusions can be drawn.

A study by Change et al also found a protective effect associated with vitamin D and also concluded that routine residential UV radiation exposure may have a protective effect against lymphomagenesis through mechanisms possibly independent of vitamin D. [13]

Survivors of NHL are at risk for development of a second primary malignancy. A review of Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results data from 1992-2008 found hazard ratios for a second cancer to be 2.70 for men and 2.88 for women. [14]

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