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Hodgkin Lymphoma: Monoclonal Antibody Therapy

What is monoclonal antibody therapy?

Monoclonal antibody therapy is a type of treatment for cancer known as immunotherapy. Monoclonal antibodies are manmade (synthetic) forms of immune system proteins. They are given in medicines to cause your immune system to attack certain targets on cancer cells. These medicines are not used for everyone with Hodgkin lymphoma. But they may be used in certain cases.

Types of monoclonal antibody medicines

These medicines are used to treat Hodgkin lymphoma:

  • Brentuximab vedotin. This is a monoclonal antibody that is combined with a chemotherapy medicine. The antibody attaches to lymphoma cells in your body. This helps send the chemo medicine directly to your cells. This medicine may help treat Hodgkin lymphoma that has come back after other treatments. It also is being studied to see if it can be given with other chemo or used earlier in treatment.

  • Rituximab. This medicine attaches to a certain target called CD20 found on some lymphoma cells. It may be used to treat nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin disease (NLPHD). It may be used alone. Or it may be used with other treatments such as chemo or radiation.

How monoclonal antibodies are given

The medicine is given by IV line into your vein. This is often done once every few weeks. The treatment may be done in places such as:

  • The outpatient clinic of a hospital

  • At your healthcare provider's office

  • A chemotherapy clinic

Possible side effects of monoclonal antibodies

This treatment can cause an infusion reaction. It’s like an allergic reaction. The reaction may occur while the medicine is being given. Or it may occur just after. Symptoms are usually mild and may include:

  • Chills

  • Fever

  • Nausea

  • Rash

  • Headache

Rarely, more serious side effects may happen while the medicine is being given. These include:

  • Low blood pressure

  • Chest tightness and trouble breathing

You may be given medicines before your infusion to help lower the risk of these problems. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these symptoms during or soon after your infusion.

Other side effects depend on which medicine is given and other factors.

Brentuximab vedotin can cause side effects such as:

  • Nerve damage (neuropathy)

  • Feeling tired

  • Low blood cell counts

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Fever

  • Infections

  • Cough

  • Diarrhea

Rituximab does not often cause serious side effects. But it can raise your risk for infection in the months after treatment. If you have been infected with the hepatitis B virus in the past, the virus may become active again. Your healthcare provider will test your blood for hepatitis B before you start this medicine. 

Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Lu Cunningham
Online Medical Reviewer: Richard LoCicero MD
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2019
© 2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.