How are T-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHLs) treated?

Updated: Feb 25, 2021
  • Author: Sanjay Vinjamaram, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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The treatment of T-cell lymphomas continues to be challenging. T-cell lymphomas are divided into 2 subgroups: cutaneous or systemic T-cell disorders. Typically, cutaneous T-cell lymphomas (CTCL) are managed with topical agents and oral disease modifiers during the early stage of the disease. See Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma for more information on this topic. Systemic chemotherapy is usually incorporated late in the course of the disease with modest activity. Systemic T-cell lymphomas represent a challenge to the practicing oncologist.

The complexity of each subtype of T-cell lymphomas, the low incidence, and poor response to standard therapies are important factors that contribute to the poor clinical outcomes of this group of neoplasms. Most patients with T-cell lymphomas are better served by participating in clinical trials exploring dose-intense regimens, early bone marrow transplantation, and/or novel chemotherapeutic agents. Treatment options for T-cell lymphoma can be categorized as follows:

  • Combination chemotherapy regimens - CHOP, CHOP plus etoposide, gemcitabine based-regimens

  • Single chemotherapy agents - Pralatrexate

  • Monoclonal antibodies - Alemtuzumab (effective in prolymphocytic T-cell leukemia and hepatosplenic gamma-delta T-cell lymphoma)

  • Immunotoxin - Denileukin diftitox (discontinued January 2014)

  • Novel biological agents and small molecule inhibitors - Histone deacetylase inhibitors (vorinostat, panobinostat, romidepsin, belinostat), lenalidomide, and bortezomib

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted accelerated approval for pralatrexate injection (Folotyn) as a single agent for the treatment of patients with relapsed or refractory peripheral T-cell lymphoma (PTCL). [56]

In June 2011, the FDA granted accelerated approval for romidepsin (Istodax) for treatment of PTCL in patients who have received at least one prior therapy. [57]

In July 2014 the FDA approved the histone deacetylase inhibitor belinostat (Beleodaq) for treatment of relapsed or refractory PTCL. Approval was based on the results of a multicenter, single-arm, nonrandomized trial of 120 patients with refractory or relapsed PTCL and included patients with baseline platelet levels below 100,000/μL. The overall complete and partial response rates were 10.8% and 15.0%, respectively. The median response duration (first date of response to disease progression or death) was 8.4 months. [58, 59]

Jacobsen et al concluded that hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) can result in long-term remissions in patients with relapsed or refractory T-cell lymphoma, especially those with nodal histologies. [60]

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