AIDS-Related Lymphoma Treatment

Treatment for AIDS-related lymphomas depends on the stage, histology, and grade of the disease, as well as the general health of the patient. A doctor must consider blood cell counts and any other diseases caused by AIDS that the patient has or has had in the past.

Treatment of AIDS-related lymphoma is difficult because of the problems caused by HIV infection, which weakens the immune system. In chemotherapy, the drug doses used are often lower than those given to patients who do not have AIDS. Two types of treatment are used:

  • Chemotherapy (using drugs to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors)
  • Radiation therapy (using high-dose x-rays or other high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors)


Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Chemotherapy may be taken orally (in pill form), may be administered through a vein (intravenously), or may be injected into muscle.

Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment because the drugs enter the bloodstream, travel throughout the body, and can kill cancer cells throughout the body. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that has spread to the brain may be treated by injecting chemotherapy drugs into the fluid that surrounds the brain through a needle in the brain or back (called intrathecal chemotherapy) .

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma usually is administered from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy). Radiation given to the brain is called cranial irradiation. Radiation therapy may be used alone or in addition to chemotherapy.

Standard treatment for patients with AIDS-related lymphoma may be considered based on its effectiveness in past studies, or participation in a clinical trial may be considered. Not all patients are cured with standard therapy, and some standard treatments may have more side effects than are desired. For these reasons, clinical trials, which are based on the most up-to-date information, are designed to find better ways to treat cancer patients.

To learn more about clinical trials, call the Cancer Information Service at 1.800.4.CANCER (1.800.422.6237); TTY at 1.800.332.8615 or the AIDS Clinical Trials Information Service at 1.800.342.AIDS (1.800.342.2437).

Treatment for AIDS-Related Peripheral/Systemic Lymphoma

Treatment may be one of the following:

  • Standard-dose systemic chemotherapy plus intrathecal chemotherapy
  • Low-dose systemic chemotherapy plus intrathecal chemotherapy
  • A clinical trial of new types of chemotherapy or new ways of giving chemotherapy

Treatment for AIDS-Related Primary CNS Lymphoma

Treatment will probably be cranial radiation therapy. A clinical trial of new types of treatment may also be an option.

To Learn More about AIDS-Related Lymphoma

To learn more about AIDS-related lymphoma, visit the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service website or call 1.800.4.CANCER (1.800.422.6237); TTY at 1.800.332.8615. By dialing this toll-free number, trained information specialists can help answer your questions.


National Cancer Institute
Office of Cancer Communications
31 Center Drive, MSC 2580
Bethesda, MD 20892-2580

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 14 Aug 1999

Last Modified: 22 Jul 2015