Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma treatment

lymphatic system

A cancer of the lymphatic system, which is a part of the body’s immune system, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) also is referred to as non-Hodgkin lymphoma or lymphoma. In this form of cancer, two types of white blood cells called B-lymphocytes (B-cells) and T-lymphocytes (T-cells) that work to fight off infections become cancerous. Approximately 65,000 new cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are expected to be diagnosed in 2010.1

There are many different forms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which are typically classified by cell type (B-cell lymphomas or T-cell lymphomas) or rate of growth (aggressive/fast-growing or indolent/slow-growing).

Cutaneous T-cell lymphomas

Cutaneous T-cell lymphomas describe a group of lymphomas that start developing on the skin. Typically, an itchy and red rash appears on the skin that eventually thickens and form tumors. There are two common types of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma including mycosis fungoides, a slow-growing form of the disease, and Sezary syndrome, which is a faster-growing form of skin lymphoma.

Treatment options may include one or more of the following treatment options:

Surgery can be conducted to remove cutaneous T-cell lymphoma if it has manifested in only a few skin lesions. However, it is usually combined with one or more other treatment options.
Photodynamic Therapy
This type of treatment uses a chemical cream that is applied or injected into the skin followed several hours or days later by a laser light treatment. When the laser light is applied onto the skin, it actives the special chemicals to destroy the lymphoma cells.
Drugs that are related to Vitamin A, they can be applied topically directly to the skin lesions or taken in pill form to treat cutaneous T-cell lymphomas.
Radiation Therapy
External beam radiation given to the entire body is commonly used to treat cutaneous T-cell lymphoma because it only penetrates the skin.
Chemotherapy may be given topically, where it is applied directly to the skin in the form of a cream or lotion to kill the cancerous cells, or systemically, where it is injected into the body or given by mouth.
Biological Therapy or Immunotherapy
These type of therapies are specifically designed to attack a particular target or component found on the surface of the lymphoma cells or they boost the body’s immune system to kill the cancerous cells. In addition to interferons, drugs such as Campath, Istodax, Ontak, Rituxan, Velcade and Zolinza are used to treat cutaneous T-cell lymphomas.
Stem Cell Transplantation
If the cutaneous T-cell lymphoma recurs after initial treatment, a stem cell transplant may be considered in some patients. This form of treatment occurs when high doses of chemotherapy or radiation are given to destroy bone marrow cells (where white blood cells develop) and then are replaced with healthy stem cells, which form new white blood cells, previously removed from the patient or a donor.


  1. National Cancer Institute. Non Hodgkin Lymphoma Cancer Home Page. Accessed on January 2, 2011.

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