The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to approve any vaccines for the treatment of lymphoma. But several different types of lymphoma vaccines are currently being tested in clinical trials.

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Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the cells of your lymphatic system. These cells are called lymphocytes, and they include B cells and T cells. Both cell types are typically involved in protecting you from infections.

There are two broad types of lymphoma: Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). The type of treatment recommended and how it affects your outlook depends on the specific type of lymphoma you have.

Lymphoma treatment often involves chemotherapy. However, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy may also be used. Progress is also being made on vaccine treatments for lymphoma.

Keep reading to learn more.

We typically think of vaccines as a way to prevent disease. However, vaccines to treat cancer are a little different.

Cancer vaccines are given as a part of cancer treatment to help your immune system recognize and respond to cancer cells. This type of cancer treatment is called immunotherapy.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two vaccines for cancer treatment. These vaccines target prostate cancer and melanoma. Currently, no vaccines have been approved for the treatment of lymphoma.

However, lymphoma vaccines are being tested in clinical trials. Clinical trials help researchers determine whether a new treatment or therapy is safe and effective before it’s made widely available.

Many of the lymphoma vaccines being studied are for the treatment of NHL, which generally has a poorer outlook than Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Vaccines for NHL often focus on slow-growing (indolent) lymphomas, which are more challenging to treat. However, the vaccines may also target aggressive types of NHL.

Vaccines may be used to treat cancer in several different ways, and there are different types of vaccines based on how they are made.


Some cancer vaccines contain proteins that are found on cancer cells. This can help teach your immune system to respond to these proteins. Something that causes an immune response is called an antigen.

A 2021 research review notes that, although protein-based cancer vaccines are easy to make and can stimulate the immune system, they have often not shown a benefit in clinical trials. This includes older trials for protein-based lymphoma vaccines, according to another 2021 review.

However, there are some newer protein-based vaccines for treating indolent NHL in clinical trials now.

One, called EO2463, uses four peptides to help your immune system recognize lymphoma cells as foreign. Another, called NeoVax, is personalized and uses antigens present on your own lymphoma cells.

Nucleic acid-based

Nucleic acids include DNA and RNA. Nucleic acid vaccines contain information that can tell your cells how to make a cancer-associated antigen. Once this antigen is made, your immune system can develop a response to it.

A clinical trial of an mRNA vaccine is now recruiting for people with solid tumors or lymphomas. The vaccine is injected into the tumor and contains mRNA that goes on to boost cytokine production, activating immune cells around the tumor.


Some vaccines are made using cells that are isolated from your body. These cells are then exposed to antigens in a lab. This teaches the cells to recognize and respond to the antigen when they’re reinfused into your body.

Sipuleucel-T (Provenge) is an FDA-approved cancer vaccine that uses this method. It’s used to treat advanced prostate cancer that hasn’t responded to other treatments.

One active clinical trial for a cell-based vaccine to treat lymphoma is for Oncoquest-L. The vaccine combines a person’s own tumor cells with a cytokine that stimulates the immune system. It’s being tested for treating indolent NHL.


Virus-based vaccines use a type of virus called an oncolytic virus. This is a virus that’s been modified to infect and kill cancer cells. It also stimulates infected cells to make cytokines, which can activate the immune system.

Talimogene laherparepvec (Imlygic) is an FDA-approved virus-based cancer vaccine. It’s used for melanoma that cannot be removed using surgery.

There are currently no virus-based vaccines being tested for lymphoma.

All vaccine therapies for lymphoma are still experimental and are being tested in clinical trials. However, some of the trials do have promising results. Let’s look at some examples now.

Clinical trials for indolent NHL

A 2018 trial evaluated a vaccine to treat indolent NHL. This vaccine was injected directly into the tumor site.

The trial included 29 participants who were first treated with radiation therapy. They then received injections of SD-101, a synthetic nucleic acid that stimulates certain parts of the immune system.

Researchers found that this treatment combination led to shrinking of the treated tumors as well as untreated tumors elsewhere in the body.

A 2019 trial of radiation therapy in combination with two molecules that activate the immune system also showed similar results in a small group of individuals with indolent NHL. Clinical trials for this therapy are ongoing.

Clinical trials for aggressive NHL

A 2020 trial assessed a cell-based vaccine in 45 people that were in remission for mantle cell lymphoma, a type of aggressive NHL. This treatment had the following steps:

  1. Participants were vaccinated with activated tumor cells collected from their bodies.
  2. Immune cells primed by this vaccination were then collected.
  3. Participants next received an autologous stem cell transplant (SCT).
  4. The primed immune cells collected before the SCT were then reinfused into the participants.
  5. Booster vaccinations with activated tumor cells were given after the reinfusion.

One year after their SCT, 89% of study participants had no minimal residual disease (MRD). MRD is when a very small number of cancer cells can be detected in the body after treatment.

Like any cancer treatment, vaccine therapy can come with some side effects. While vaccines to treat lymphoma are still being tested, we do know about the side effects associated with cancer vaccines that are already FDA-approved.

Because these vaccines activate the immune system, side effects may include flu-like symptoms, such as:

Additionally, it’s possible to have a serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis in response to a cancer vaccine.

Cell-based vaccines like Provenge may lead to infusion reactions while the vaccine is being given, which have symptoms similar to an allergic reaction.

Not everyone is a good candidate for cancer vaccines. If you have a type of cancer for which a vaccine is available, talk with your care team about its potential risks and benefits and whether you’d be a good candidate.

There are currently no FDA-approved vaccines for the treatment of lymphoma. However, researchers are hard at work testing the safety and effectiveness of some vaccine candidates in clinical trials.

Experimental lymphoma vaccines may be protein-, cell-, or nucleic acid-based. If you have lymphoma and are interested in participating in a lymphoma vaccine trial, talk with your care team to see if there are trials that you’d be eligible for.