New chemotherapy drugs make non-Hodgkin lymphoma more curable

Gov. Hogan's cancer is still curable.

When Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday that he has non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system that works to protect the body from disease and infection, he said the disease was advanced. But cancer doctors said that doesn’t mean it can’t be cured.

Hogan said his cancer was diagnosed in a late stage after he felt a lump in his neck while shaving, but doctors said that was a typical scenario. After testing, 20 to 30 more masses were discovered.

Advances in chemotherapy drugs in the past 10 years have produced better survival rates, and Hogan “has every reason to be optimistic,” said Dr. Kevin J. Cullen, professor of oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

About 70 percent of those diagnosed with this kind of cancer survive five years, said Cullen, also director of the Maryland’s Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center, where Hogan had gone for testing.

Cullen has not treated Hogan, who said he has settled on a treatment team from Johns Hopkins Hospital and Anne Arundel Medical Center, which has an affiliation with Hopkins medical system.

Hogan said he has B-cell lymphoma, which is the most common type. He also said it was either stage 3 or 4, which means that it has spread to other organs.

In this case, that means it has likely spread to Hogan’s bone marrow, Cullen said. Hogan said he had a bone marrow test today.

But unlike other cancers, non-Hodgkin lymphoma is still curable at this late stage.

“Over the coming months I will be receiving multiple very aggressive chemotherapy treatments,” Hogan said. “Most likely I will lose my hair, won’t have these beautiful gray lines. I may trim down a little bit. … The fact is that I am just like the more than 75,000 people diagnosed with lymphoma every single year who fight it beat it and continue doing their jobs at the same time.”

An earlier version of the story incorrectly said Anne Arundel Medical Center was part of the Johns Hopkins medical system.

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