Burkitt lymphoma is a cancer of mature B-lymphocytes. It is a
form of non-Hodgkin
lymphoma, which is a type of cancer that originates in cells of the immune
system, called lymphocytes.
Starting Burkitt lymphoma treatment promptly is important.
With current therapies, more than 90% of children with Burkitt lymphoma and
leukemia are cured of the disease.
Children with non-Hodgkin lymphoma are treated at
Dana-Farber/Boston Children's through the Lymphoma
Treatment Program in our Hematologic Malignancies Center.
One of the top pediatric cancer centers worldwide, Dana-Farber/Boston
Children’s combines the expertise of a premier cancer center – Dana-Farber
Cancer Institute – and a world-class children’s hospital – Boston Children’s
Hospital – to provide internationally-renowned care for children with cancers
of the blood and immune system.
Under a microscope, Burkitt lymphoma often has a pattern
that looks like a “starry sky” with many small round blue cells interspersed
with star-like macrophage cells. Special stains to look at the proteins on the Burkitt
lymphoma cells show these cells express a marker called CD20. Specialized tests
looking at the chromosomes in these cells often show a rearrangement of the
c-myc gene with one of the immunoglobulin genes. The most common of these
translocations is between chromosomes 8 and 14.
In sub-Saharan Africa, Burkitt lymphoma of the jaw is
associated with previous infection by the Epstein-Barr virus. This presentation
of Burkitt lymphoma is called “endemic.”
In other parts of the world, Burkitt lymphoma is not usually associated
with Epstein-Barr virus.
For the purpose of deciding how much treatment is necessary,
Burkitt lymphoma may be divided into 3 groups:
The level of an enzyme in the blood called LDH can be
elevated in Burkitt lymphoma. Children with an LDH more than twice the normal
level have higher risk disease.
The lymphoma specialists at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s
determine the best approach to treatment for each child's unique situation,
based on the type of lymphoma, the extent of the disease, the patient’s medical
condition, the patient's and family’s preferences, and the most up-to-date
medical knowledge about lymphoma therapies.
For newly diagnosed Burkitt lymphoma or leukemia, treatment is
based on the Group of the disease (as described in the classification section above).
If the correct treatment is selected, the cure rate for all
three groups of Burkitt lymphoma is very high.
Treatment of relapsed
or refractory Burkitt lymphoma
For Burkitt lymphoma that does not respond to initial
treatment (refractory) or that comes back after treatment (relapse), there is
no standard treatment recommendation. Refractory or relapsed Burkitt lymphoma
is difficult to treat successfully.
For many children with cancer, clinical trials – research
studies evaluating new treatment approaches – provide state-of-the art
treatments and new opportunities for cure. Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s offers
many clinical trials. It is possible your child will be eligible to participate
in one of our lymphoma clinical trials. Participation in a clinical trial is
optional and is never a requirement to receive treatment at Dana-Farber/Boston
In addition to launching our own clinical trials, we also
offer trials available through collaborative groups such as the Children's
Oncology Group (COG), the Therapeutic Advances in Childhood Leukemia and
Lymphoma (TACL) group, and the Pediatric Oncology Experimental
Therapeutics Investigators' Consortium (POETIC). We are the New England Phase I
Center of the Children's Oncology Group.
We have new treatments under investigation, both for newly
diagnosed lymphomas and for lymphomas that have come back after initial
treatment. New and experimental treatments include monoclonal antibody
therapies, antibody-drug conjugates and bispecific antibodies that specifically
target tumor cells; small molecule inhibitors that interfere with the way
cancer cells grow; checkpoint inhibitors that activate the body’s own immune
system to fight the cancer; and selective inhibitors of nuclear export that
prevent tumor cells from escaping cell death. Clinical trials to investigate
the biology of each child’s lymphoma are available and may help find targets of
therapy unique to that lymphoma.
To learn more about the specific clinical trials that are
currently available at the Dana-Farber/Boston Children's:
Despite its fast-growing nature, Burkitt lymphoma is one of the most curable forms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. More than 90 percent of children with localized tumors and more than 85% with widespread disease are cured.
Cancer survivorship care
All kids who have been treated for cancer require ongoing,
specialized care. Through the David
B. Perini Jr. Quality of Life Clinic, our cancer
survivorship clinic, childhood cancer survivors receive regular,
comprehensive follow-up evaluations from their cancer care team. In addition to
meeting with your pediatric oncologists, your child may see one of our endocrinologists, cardiologists, neurologists, neuro-psychologists, or alternative/complementary therapy specialists. We also offer patient and
family education, psychosocial assessment, genetic counseling, reproductive
counseling, and opportunities to speak with other childhood cancer
Phone: 617-632-5508Online form: Request an appointment
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Through ongoing education, care, and support, we are preparing cancer survivors for the road ahead. Learn about our extensive services for survivors of pediatric cancer.