Studying Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Updated: Mar 5


The research question:

What are the risk factors of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)? How much of the risk of developing NHL can these factors explain?

NHL is a cancer that arises in our immune system in the cells that help to fight infections and other diseases in the body. To date, we know little about who gets NHL and why.


Meet the researcher: Dr. Sophia Wang, Ph.D., is a molecular epidemiologist at the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center with expertise in how cancer develops and how individuals that get cancer fare after their treatment. She completed her education and training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Please click here to learn more about Dr. Wang and her other research projects.

What makes this project unique: NHL is a rare cancer, which makes it difficult to study. Even in large studies like the CTS, few participants are diagnosed with NHL every year. This makes it hard for CTS researchers to gather enough information to examine the disease thoroughly. NHL also has a number of subtypes, so having information from enough participants who have had each type of NHL subtype is essential to understanding the risk factors specific to each subtype of NHL.

By combining NHL patients' information from multiple studies—including the CTS, Kaiser Permanente Southern California, the American Cancer Society, and four different Harvard University studies—this project will provide the number of patients and the volume of information necessary to give researchers a real opportunity to understand what causes NHL.

This project will also ask some participants for their permission to study leftover tissue samples from when they were treated for NHL. Having access to these tissue samples allows researchers to examine the molecular characteristics of and within different NHL subtypes. For example, it is possible that obesity, which has been modestly linked to NHL, will explain all of the risk for one particular NHL subtype but very little of another subtype. By studying the molecular characteristics of NHL tissues, researchers can begin to piece together the underlying biological causes of NHL and understand how different risk factors may cause NHL in different ways, through different biologies. You can learn more about how tissue is used for research here.

The questionnaire answers: Researchers will be using a number of self-reported health information provided by past questionnaire answers.

From Questionnaire 1:

- Alcohol and tobacco use

- Education level

- Family history of leukemia and NHL

- Income

- Personal health, including diabetes

- Pregnancy and use of contraceptives

- Race

- Weight and height

From Questionnaire 2:

- Alcohol and smoking use

- Personal health

- Weight and height

From Questionnaire 3:

- Personal health

- Use of hormone therapy

From Questionnaire 4:

- Pregnancy and use of contraceptives

- Weight and height

From Questionnaire 5:

- Personal health, including diabetes diagnoses

- Pregnancy and use of contraceptives

- Use of hormone therapy

- Weight and height

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