Hodgkin Lymphoma: Immunotherapy
What is immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy medicines help your immune system attack and kill cancer cells. These medicines are not used for everyone with Hodgkin lymphoma. But they may be used in certain cases.
Types of immunotherapy medicines
These medicines are used to treat Hodgkin lymphoma:
How immunotherapy is given
These medicines are given right into your blood through an IV (intravenous) line into your vein. This is 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 or infusion center
Possible side effects of immunotherapy
This treatment can cause an infusion reaction. It’s like an allergic reaction. It often happens while the medicine is being given. Or it may occur just after. Symptoms are usually mild and may include:
Flushing of your face
Rarely, more serious side effects may happen while the medicine is being given. These include:
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. It's very important to tell your healthcare providers about any changes you notice while you're getting treated with monoclonal antibody therapy.
Brentuximab vedotin can cause side effects such as:
Rituximab may cause a severe infusion-related reaction during the first infusion. But it's not common for the infusion reaction to occur with the next infusions of rituximab. This medicine 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 likely test your blood for hepatitis B before you start this medicine.
Nivolumab and pembrolizumab can cause these side effects:
Because these medicines kill cancer cells by taking the brakes off the immune system, sometimes the immune system starts attacking other parts of the body. This can lead to serious problems with the lungs, kidneys, liver, and other organs.
Working with your healthcare provider
It's important to know which medicines you're taking. Write down the names of your medicines. Ask your healthcare team how they work and what side effects they might cause.
Talk with your healthcare providers about what symptoms to watch for and when to call them. Make sure you know what number to call with questions. Is there a different number for evenings, weekends, and holidays?
It may be helpful to keep a diary of your side effects. Write down physical, thinking, and emotional changes. A written list will make it easier for you to remember your questions when you go to your appointments. It will also make it easier for you to work with your healthcare team to make a plan to manage your side effects.