Which medications are used in the treatment of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)?

Updated: Feb 25, 2021
  • Author: Sanjay Vinjamaram, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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Multiple chemotherapeutic agents are active against non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and can be used alone or in combination, depending on the histology and stage of the disease and whether the patient can tolerate chemotherapy. In addition, several biological therapies are currently available for these patients, including interferons, rituximab, and radiolabeled antibodies (the newest biological therapy).

Alkylating agents impair cell function by forming covalent bonds with DNA, ribonucleic acid (RNA), and proteins. These agents are not cell cycle phase–specific and are used for hematologic and nonhematologic malignancies.

Anthracycline antibiotics bind to nucleic acids by intercalation with base pairs of the DNA double helix, interfering with the DNA synthesis. They cause inhibition of DNA topoisomerases I and II.

Vinca alkaloids inhibit microtubule assembly, causing metaphase arrest in dividing cells. Vinca alkaloids are also cell cycle phase–specific at the M and S phase.

Glucocorticoids cause lysis of lymphoid cells, which led to their use against acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), multiple myeloma, and NHL. These agents are also used as adjunctive antiemetic agents, to decrease vasogenic edema associated with tumors, and as prophylactic medication to prevent hypersensitivity reactions associated with some chemotherapeutic drugs.

Antimetabolites cause tumor cell death by inhibiting enzymes that are important in DNA synthesis.

Biological response modulators control the response of the patient's immune system to tumor cells, infecting organisms, or both.

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