Leukemia & Lymphoma Treatment

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Once leukemia or lymphoma has been diagnosed and staged, your Houston Methodist oncologist may recommend one or more of the following treatments:
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Stem Cell Transplant
  • Targeted Therapy

Tumor Staging
Some of the tests used to diagnose leukemia and lymphoma can provide crucial information about how this disease should be treated. This information is applied to stage the disease and determine whether and where it has spread. The stages of leukemia are determined by blood cell counts and the accumulation of leukemia cells in other organs, like the liver or spleen. Some of the leukemias are broken down into subtypes during staging — for example, acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Staging for lymphoma determines the extent of lymph node involvement within the body. Stage I (early stage) denotes lymphoma in a single lymph node or lymph node region, whereas stage IV (late-stage) indicates that disease is widespread to sites beyond the lymph nodes such as the liver and lung.


Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.
When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or intravenously, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy).
Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. Patients with blood-related cancers often receive radiation therapy in addition to chemotherapy.
Immunotherapy involves using medicines to stimulate a patient’s own immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells more effectively. Numerous types of immunotherapy can be used to treat patients, either alone or in combination with other treatments.
Some immunotherapy treatments are given as intravenous infusions. Others are injected directly into the tumor or through other methods. With all immunotherapy treatments, your health care team will discuss the rationale for this approach and its potential side effects and their prevention/management.

Stem Cell Transplant
The dosage and amount of chemotherapy that can be given are usually limited by the side effects associated with the drugs. Even if they might kill more cancer cells, higher doses cannot be used because of the potential for severe damage to the bone marrow, where new blood cells are made.
In some patients, a stem cell transplant can be performed. In this procedure, doctors administer high-dose chemotherapy (sometimes along with radiation therapy) followed by a transplant of blood-forming stem cells to restore the bone marrow.
Blood-forming stem cells used for a transplant are obtained either from the blood (for a peripheral blood stem cell transplant) or from the bone marrow (for a bone marrow transplant). Bone marrow transplants were more common in the past, but they have largely been replaced by peripheral transplants.
Targeted Therapy
Targeted therapy is a newer type of treatment for leukemia/lymphoma that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells. One common advantage of targeted therapy over chemotherapy is that the targeted drugs are associated with less severe side effects and can be taken orally.

Clinical Trials
For some patients, participating in a clinical trial provides access to innovative therapies for leukemia/lymphoma.

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