B-Cell Lymphoma Medication

Updated: Sep 25, 2017
  • Author: Mohammad Muhsin Chisti, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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Medication Summary

The goals of pharmacotherapy are to induce remission, reduce morbidity and prevent complications.


Hematopoietic Growth Factors

Class Summary

These agents can induce an increase in reticulocyte counts, with a subsequent increase in hematocrit and hemoglobin levels.

Darbepoetin alfa (Aranesp)

This is an erythropoiesis-stimulating protein closely related to EPO, a primary growth factor produced in the kidney that stimulates the development of erythroid progenitor cells. Its mechanism of action is similar to that of endogenous EPO, which interacts with stem cells to increase red blood cell production. It differs from epoetin alfa (recombinant human EPO) in that it contains five N-linked oligosaccharide chains, whereas epoetin alfa contains three. Darbepoetin alfa has a longer half-life than epoetin alfa and can be administered weekly or biweekly.

Filgrastim (Granix, Neupogen, Zarxio)

Filgrastim is a recombinant methionyl human granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (r-metHuG-CSF) consisting of a 175–amino acid protein with a molecular weight of 18,800 d. It is produced by Escherichia coli bacteria into which the human G-CSF gene is inserted. This protein has an amino acid sequence identical to the natural sequence predicted from human DNA sequence analysis, except for the addition of an N-terminal methionine necessary for expression in E coli. Because it is produced in E coli, the product is nonglycosylated and thus differs from G-CSF isolated from human cells.

Pegfilgrastim (Neulasta)

Pegfilgrastim is a long-acting filgrastim created by the covalent conjugate of recombinant granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (ie, filgrastim) and monomethoxypolyethylene glycol. As with filgrastim, it acts on hematopoietic cells by binding to specific cell surface receptors, thereby activating and stimulating the production, maturation, migration, and cytotoxicity of neutrophils.

Epoetin alfa (Epogen, Procrit)

This agent is a purified glycoprotein produced from mammalian cells modified with gene coding for human erythropoietin (EPO). Its amino acid sequence is identical to that of endogenous EPO. The biological activity of epoetin alfa mimics human urinary EPO, which stimulates division and differentiation of committed erythroid progenitor cells and induces the release of reticulocytes from bone marrow into the blood stream.


Monoclonal Antibodies

Class Summary

The agents in this class target specific antigens in carcinoma cells and induce cytotoxicity.

Ibritumomab tiuxetan (Zevalin Y-90)

A murine monoclonal antibody that targets the CD20 antigen, ibritumomab tiuxetan is chelated to the radioisotopes indium-111 or yttrium-90. It is used in conjunction with rituximab to treat B-cell NHL or rituximab-refractory follicular NHL. The regimen consists of two low doses of rituximab, an imaging dose, two-three whole-body scans, and a therapeutic dose, all of which are delivered in an outpatient setting over 8 days.

Ofatumumab (Arzerra)

Ofatumumab is an anti-CD20 human monoclonal antibody that inhibits B-cell activation in early stages. It is indicated for chronic lymphocytic leukemia refractory to fludarabine and alemtuzumab.

Alemtuzumab (Lemtrada, Campath)

Alemtuzumab is a monoclonal antibody against CD52, an antigen found on B cells, T cells, and almost all chronic lymphocytic leukemia cells. It binds to the CD52 receptor of the lymphocytes, which slows the proliferation of leukocytes.

Rituximab (Rituxan, Rituxan Hycela)

Rituximab is a genetically engineered chimeric murine/human monoclonal antibody directed against the CD20 antigen found on the surface of normal and malignant B lymphocytes. The antibody is an immunoglobulin G1 (IgG1) kappa immunoglobulin containing murine light- and heavy-chain variable region sequences and human constant region sequences.



Class Summary

These drugs have anti-inflammatory properties and cause profound and varied metabolic effects. Corticosteroids modify the body's immune response to diverse stimuli.

Dexamethasone (Dexamethasone Intensol)

A component of the m-BACOD (methotrexate, bleomycin, doxorubicin [Adriamycin], cyclophosphamide, Oncovin, and dexamethasone) regimen, dexamethasone is a glucocorticoid that acts as an immunosuppressant by stimulating the synthesis of enzymes needed to decrease the inflammatory response. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent by inhibiting the recruitment of leukocytes and monocyte-macrophages into affected areas via inhibition of chemotactic factors and factors that increase capillary permeability.

Dexamethasone is readily absorbed via the GI tract and metabolized in the liver. Inactive metabolites are excreted via the kidneys. Most of the adverse effects of corticosteroids are dose dependent or duration dependent.

Prednisone (Prednisone Intensol, Rayos)

A component of several regimens, such as CHOP, prednisone is a glucocorticoid that acts as an immunosuppressant by stimulating the synthesis of enzymes needed to decrease the inflammatory response. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent by inhibiting the recruitment of leukocytes and monocyte-macrophages into affected areas via inhibition of chemotactic factors and factors that increase capillary permeability.

Prednisone is readily absorbed via the GI tract and metabolized in the liver. Inactive metabolites are excreted via the kidneys. Most of the adverse effects of corticosteroids are dose dependent or duration dependent.


Antineoplastic Agents

Class Summary

These agents inhibit cell growth and proliferation and lead to cell death.

Chlorambucil (Leukeran)

Chlorambucil alkylates and cross-links strands of DNA, inhibiting DNA replication and RNA transcription. It is used mainly to treat indolent lymphomas, particularly chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia. This agent may be preferable for elderly patients with serious comorbid medical problems who require treatment for lymphoma. It is well absorbed orally.


Cyclophosphamide is chemically related to nitrogen mustards. As an alkylating agent, the mechanism of action of the active metabolites may involve cross-linking of DNA, which may interfere with growth of normal and neoplastic cells. This agent can be used alone but is mostly used as a component of multiple combination chemotherapy regimens.

Bendamustine (Bendeka, Treanda)

Bendamustine is an alkylating agent that is a bifunctional mechlorethamine derivative. It forms covalent bonds with electron-rich nucleophilic moieties that can lead to cell death. It is active against both quiescent and dividing cells and is indicated for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).


Cisplatin is a platinum-containing compound that exerts its antineoplastic effect by covalently binding to DNA, with preferential binding to the N-7 position of guanine and adenosine. It can react with 2 different sites on DNA to cause cross-links. The platinum complex also can bind to the nucleus and to cytoplasmic protein. A bifunctional alkylating agent, once cisplatin is activated to the aquated form in the cell, it binds to DNA, resulting in interstrand and intrastrand cross-linking and denaturation of the double helix.


An anthracycline antibiotic that can intercalate with DNA, doxorubicin affects many of the functions of DNA, including synthesis. It forms DNA-cleavable complexes by interaction with topoisomerase II, which is responsible for the cytocidal activity of the drug. Doxorubicin is administered IV and distributes widely into bodily tissues, including the heart, kidneys, lungs, liver, and spleen. It does not cross the blood-brain barrier and is excreted primarily in bile. It forms an important part of multiple chemotherapeutic regimens for lymphomas, including cyclophosphamide, hydroxydaunomycin (doxorubicin), vincristine (Oncovin), and prednisone (CHOP).


The mechanism of action of vincristine is uncertain. It may involve a decrease in reticuloendothelial cell function or an increase in platelet production; however, neither of these mechanisms fully explains the effect in thrombocytopenic purpura and hemolytic-uremic syndrome. Vincristine is used in hematologic and nonhematologic malignancies. It is a component of CHOP and other regimens for lymphoma.


Fludarabine is a purine analogue that interferes with DNA synthesis by inhibiting ribonucleotide reductase. It is also incorporated into RNA, causing inhibition of RNA and protein synthesis; however, its primary effect may result from activation of apoptosis.

Nelarabine (Arranon)

Nelarabine is a prodrug of the deoxyguanosine analogue 9-beta-D-arabinofuranosylguanine (ara-G). It is converted to the active 5'-triphosphate, ara-GTP, a T-cell–selective nucleoside analog. Leukemic blast cells accumulate ara-GTP. This allows for incorporation into DNA, leading to inhibition of DNA synthesis and cell death


Cytarabine is converted intracellularly to the active compound cytarabine-5'-triphosphate, which inhibits DNA polymerase. It is cell cycle S phase specific and it blocks the progression from the G1 to the S phase, in turn killing cells that undergo DNA synthesis in the S phase of the cell proliferation cycle.

Gemcitabine (Gemzar)

Gemcitabine is a cytidine analog. It is metabolized intracellularly to an active nucleotide. It inhibits ribonucleotide reductase and competes with deoxycytidine triphosphate for incorporation into DNA. It is cell-cycle specific for the S phase. Gemcitabine is indicated as first-line treatment for locally advanced (nonresectable stage II or stage III) or metastatic (stage IV) pancreatic adenocarcinoma.


Etoposide is a glycosidic derivative of podophyllotoxin that exerts its cytotoxic effect through stabilization of the normally transient covalent intermediates formed between DNA substrate and topoisomerase II, leading to single- and double-strand DNA breaks. This causes cell proliferation to arrest in the late S or early G2 portion of the cell cycle.


Related to anthracyclines. Mitoxantrone intercalates into DNA. This results in cross-links and strand breaks. Binds to nucleic acids and inhibits DNA and RNA synthesis by template disordering and steric obstruction. Replication is decreased by binding to DNA topoisomerase II. Active through entire cell cycle.


Carboplatin is an analog of cisplatin. This is a heavy metal coordination complex that exerts its cytotoxic effect by platination of DNA, a mechanism analogous to alkylation, leading to interstrand and intrastrand DNA cross-links and inhibition of DNA replication. It binds to protein and other compounds containing the SH group. Cytotoxicity can occur at any stage of the cell cycle, but the cell is most vulnerable to action of these drugs in the G1 and S phases. It has same efficacy as cisplatin, but with a better toxicity profile. The main advantages over cisplatin include less nephrotoxicity and ototoxicity, the lack of a need for extensive prehydration, and a smaller likelihood of inducing nausea and vomiting; however, it is more likely to induce myelotoxicity.


This agent is composed of a group of glycopeptides extracted from Streptomyces species. Each molecule has a planar end and an amine end; different glycopeptides of the group differ in their terminal amine moieties. The planar end intercalates with DNA, while the amine end facilitates oxidation of bound ferrous ions to ferric ions, thereby generating free radicals, which subsequently cleave DNA, acting specifically at purine-G-C-pyrimidine sequences.

Vorinostat (Zolinza)

Vorinostat is a histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor. HDAC inhibition results in hypoacetylation of core nucleosomal histones, it condenses the chromatin structure, and it represses gene transcription. It is indicated for the treatment of progressive, persistent, or recurrent cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.

Romidepsin (Istodax)

This agent inhibits HDAC, which results in the accumulation of acetyl groups. This leads to alterations in chromatin structure and transcription factor activation, causing the termination of cell growth, which, in turn, leads to cell death. Indicated for CTCL and PTCL in patients who have received at least 1 prior therapy.

Belinostat (Beleodaq)

Belinostat is a histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor. HDACs catalyze the removal of acetyl groups from the lysine residues of histones and some nonhistone proteins. Inhibiting this action induces cell cycle arrest and/or apoptosis.

Pralatrexate (Folotyn)

This agent is a folate inhibitor. Inhibits DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis by selectively entering cells expressing reduced folate carrier (RFC-1). Competes for the dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR)-folate binding site to inhibit DHFR. It is indicated for relapsed or refractory peripheral T-cell lymphoma.

Temsirolimus (Torisel)

Temsirolimus is a water-soluble ester of sirolimus. It binds with high affinity to immunophilin FKBP (FK506-binding protein). This complex inhibits mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) kinase, a key protein in cells that regulate the gene translation responsible for cell-cycle regulation. mTOR also reduces the cell growth factors (eg, vascular endothelial growth factor) involved in new blood vessel development. Halts the cell cycle at the G1 phase in tumor cells.

Bortezomib (Velcade)

This is the first drug approved of the anticancer agents known as proteasome inhibitors. The proteasome pathway is an enzyme complex existing in all cells. This complex degrades ubiquitinated proteins that control the cell cycle and cellular processes and maintains cellular homeostasis. Reversible proteasome inhibition disrupts the pathways supporting cell growth, thus decreases cancer cell survival. May cause cell-cycle arrest and apoptosis.


Antineoplastics, Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor

Class Summary

Ibrutinib received accelerated approval from the FDA for marginal zone lymphoma following analysis of phase 2 data in 60 patients who had a median follow-up of 19.4 months. Of these patients, 3% (n=2) treated with ibrutinib achieved complete responses (CR) and 45% (n=27) achieved partial responses (PR). Overall, 78% of patients experienced tumor reduction. Median progression-free survival was 14.2 months. [41]

Ibrutinib (Imbruvica)

Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitor; forms a covalent bond with a cysteine residue in the BTK active site, leading to inhibition of BTK enzymatic activity. BTK is a signaling molecule of the B-cell antigen receptor (BCR) and cytokine receptor pathways. BTK’s role in signaling through the B-cell surface receptors results in activation of pathways necessary for B-cell trafficking, chemotaxis, and adhesion. Ibrutinib is indicated for marginal zone lymphoma (MZL) in patients who require systemic therapy and have received at least 1 prior anti-CD20-based therapy.


Antineoplastics, PI3K Delta Inhibitors

Class Summary

This drug class inhibits one or more of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase enzymes, which are part of the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway, an important signalling pathway for many cellular functions such as growth control, metabolism and translation initiation. Within this pathway there are many components, inhibition of which may result in tumor suppression.

Idelalisib (Zydelig)

Idelalisib is a phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) delta inhibitor. Idelalisib induces apoptosis and inhibits proliferation in cell lines derived from malignant B cells and in primary tumor cells; also inhibits several cell- signaling pathways, including B cell receptor (BCR) signaling and the CXCR4 and CXCR5 signaling, which are involved in trafficking and homing of B cells to the lymph nodes and bone marrow. It gained accelerated approval by the FDA for relapsed follicular B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (FL) and relapsed small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL) in patients who have received at least 2 prior systemic therapies.

Copanlisib (Aliqopa)

Copanlisib is a pan-class I PI3K inhibitor that has predominant activity against the PI3K-alpha and delta isoforms. The alpha isoform is broadly expressed and involved in insulin signaling and angiogenesis, as well as resistance mechanisms to lymphoma. The delta isoform is expressed by leukocytes and is involved in B-cell signaling, development, and survival. In September 2017, it gained accelerated approval for relapsed follicular lymphoma who have received at least 2 prior therapies.