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.
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.
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.
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.
However, there are some newer protein-based vaccines for treating indolent NHL in clinical trials now.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Clinical trials for aggressive NHL
- Participants were vaccinated with activated tumor cells collected from their bodies.
- Immune cells primed by this vaccination were then collected.
- Participants next received an autologous stem cell transplant (SCT).
- The primed immune cells collected before the SCT were then reinfused into the participants.
- 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.