Medication for AIDS-Related Lymphoma

Doctors at NYU Langoneā€™s Perlmutter Cancer Center use one or more medications to treat people with AIDS-related lymphoma. Medications may control the condition for long periods, preventing it from spreading or causing symptoms.

Sometimes, medication can cause remission, which is an absence of symptoms. Depending on how well HIV infection is controlled and other health factors, remission can last for months or years. AIDS-related lymphoma can often be cured.


Chemotherapy drugs destroy cancer cells throughout the body. NYU Langone doctors select a chemotherapy regimenā€”a single drug or a combinationā€”based on the type of lymphoma cells you have. This is determined during diagnosis.

Often, doctors give chemotherapy in several treatment cycles, with each cycle lasting three or four weeks. Treatment typically occurs one to five times each week.

Most people with AIDS-related lymphoma receive chemotherapy through a vein with intravenous (IV) infusion. Intrathecal therapy may also be used to deliver the medication to the central nervous system, in order to prevent the cancer from spreading to the brain and spinal cord. This approach involves injecting the drugs into the spinal fluid through a spinal tap or through a device implanted beneath the scalp.

High-dose chemotherapy, combined with a stem cell transplant, may be an option when cancer returns after initial treatment with chemotherapy. High doses of chemotherapy are given over several days. This approach can be highly effective in treating B cell lymphomas, the most common type of AIDS-related lymphoma.

Targeted Therapies

Targeted therapies may be effective in eliminating AIDS-related lymphoma tumors that are made of cancerous B cells. These medications contain antibodies, or proteins, that recognize and attack these cells. The antibodies attach themselves to proteins on the surface of the lymphoma cells, preventing them from reproducing.

Because targeted therapies attack cancer cells and avoid healthy tissue, they may cause fewer side effects than chemotherapy. They are usually given through a vein with IV infusion.

Your doctor can determine if you are a candidate for targeted therapy based on the results of the molecular and genetic analysis of a lymph node biopsy. These drugs are usually given in combination with chemotherapy.

Medications for HIV

Doctors prescribe antiretroviral medications to treat HIV infection in people with AIDS-related lymphoma. This therapy usually combines three or more medications that prevent the virus from reproducing. These medications, taken by mouth, can prevent HIV from causing AIDS. They may also help to put lymphoma into remission, which means the disease is no longer active.

Most people with a previously diagnosed HIV infection are already taking antiretroviral therapy. If you have a newly diagnosed HIV infection, your doctor may recommend a blood test to determine whether the strain of HIV you have is resistant to any of the medications commonly used to treat it.

Clinical Trials

NYU Langone doctors participate in clinical trials of promising new medications for AIDS-related lymphoma. Your doctors may recommend being part of a trial if cancer doesnā€™t respond well to chemotherapy with or without targeted therapy.

NYU Langone researchers are evaluating a variety of new therapies for AIDS-related lymphoma, including tyrosine kinase inhibitors, a targeted therapy that blocks enzymes that help cancer cells grow.

Managing Side Effects

NYU Langoneā€™s Perlmutter Cancer Center is open seven days a week, and our hematologists and oncologists, who specialize in blood disorders, nurses, and pain management specialists can help manage any side effects that arise from treatment for AIDS-related lymphoma. Common side effects of chemotherapy include mouth sores, hair loss, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Our support services can also help you address any side effects you experience after treatment is finished, including fatigue, weakness, and nerve damage.