A trial looking at thalidomide for non Hodgkin lymphoma that has come back or is proving hard to treat

Cancer type:

Blood cancers
High grade lymphoma
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma




Phase 2

This trial was looking at thalidomide for diffuse large B cell non Hodgkin lymphoma (DLBCL).

Doctors usually treat high grade non Hodgkin lymphoma with chemotherapy, or possibly high dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplant. But sometimes the disease comes back, even after a transplant. So doctors continue to look for new and better treatments.

The aim of this trial was to see if thalidomide could help people with diffuse large B cell lymphoma

  • Whose disease had come back within a year of having chemotherapy or chemotherapy and stem cell transplant
  • Who did not get a complete remission with chemotherapy
  • Who could not have high dose therapy with stem cell transplant either because their NHL was not responding well to chemotherapy or because they were not well enough

Summary of results

The researchers found that thalidomide used on it’s own helped some people with DLBCL but the effect did not last very long.

The study recruited 18 people. Everybody taking part had thalidomide. They had a low dose for one week, then the dose was increased for the next few weeks. After a month, the dose was increased again.

The researchers looked at how the lymphoma had responded after 12 weeks.

  • In 2 people, the lymphoma had got a bit better – researchers call this a partial response
  • In 3 people, the lymphoma hadn’t got better or worse - researchers call this stable disease
  • In 10 people, the lymphoma had got worse
  • 1 person pulled out of the trial, and the researchers didn’t have results for 2 people

Unfortunately, when thalidomide did help people, the response did not last very long. After a little less than 6 months (24 weeks), only 2 out of the 5 people whose disease had got better or remained the same after treatment still had stable disease.

The most common side effects were tiredness (fatigue), skin rash, constipation, feeling sick, feeling sleepy and problems with numbness and tingling (peripheral neuropathy).

As thalidomide helped some people in this study when it was used on it’s own, the researchers suggested that future trials could look at giving it at the same time as other drugs for this type of lymphoma.

We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. As far as we are aware, the information they sent us has not been reviewed independently (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) or published in a medical journal yet. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Dr Chris Hatton
Dr A. Peniket
Prof Siow Ming Lee
Dr Paul Nathon

Supported by

NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
University College London (UCL)

If you have questions about the trial please contact our cancer information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:


Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Last reviewed:

Rate this page:

No votes yet
Thank you!
We've recently made some changes to the site, tell us what you think