What are targeted therapies?

Targeted therapies are drugs that use unique features of the cancer to find and destroy cancer cells. These drugs mainly ‘target’ the cancer cells, so they have less effect on healthy cells.

Targeted therapies for non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)

The main type of targeted therapy used to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is a drug called rituximab. Rituximab belongs to a group of targeted therapies call monoclonal antibodies. It works by encouraging the body’s immune system to attack and destroy the lymphoma cells.

Rituximab may be given on its own or in combination with chemotherapy.

For some types of NHL, rituximab treatment continues after the lymphoma is in remission. The aim is to keep the lymphoma away for as long as possible. It may be given every 2 to 3 months for up to 3 years, or for as long as it is keeping the lymphoma in remission. This is called maintenance treatment.

We have more information about rituximab. This includes how the drug is given and possible side effects.

Other targeted therapy drugs for non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)

People with some rarer types of NHL may have other types of targeted therapy as part of their treatment.

A targeted therapy drug called bortezomib (Velcade®) is sometimes used as part of the treatment for mantle cell lymphoma.

Other types of targeted therapy are being developed. They may be used to treat lymphoma as part of a clinical trial.

Targeted therapies to treat Hodgkin lymphoma (HL)

This type of treatment is not often used to treat Hodgkin lymphoma.

Some people have a targeted therapy called rituximab to treat nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma (NLPHL). Another drug called brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris®) may be used as part of the treatment for classical Hodgkin lymphoma that has come back. Sometimes targeted therapy drugs are given as part of a clinical trial to treat Hodgkin lymphoma.

About our information

  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) references

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at cancerinformationteam@macmillan.org.uk

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Guideline NG46. Haematological cancers: improving outcomes. 2016.

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Guideline NG52. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma: diagnosis and management. 2016.

    Treleaven, et al. Guidelines on the use of irradiated blood components prepared by the British Committee for Standards in Haematology blood transfusion task force. British Journal of Haematology. 2011.

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editors, Dr Anne Parker, Consultant Haematologist; and Professor Rajnish Gupta, Macmillan Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.