Twice as many patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) are hitting a post-diagnosis survival marker than in the 1970's, a report by Cancer Research and the Haematological Malignancy Research Network has found.  

In the early 1970s, just 21% of men and 24% of women diagnosed with NHL in England survived their disease for at least 10 years, but of those diagnosed in 2009, around 54% and 58%, respectively, are now predicted to be alive after this time. 

This improved outlook for patients with NHL - the sixth most common cancer in the UK - is down to the emergence of new and more effective treatments, particularly rituximab (Roche's Rituxan), as well as better diagnosis leading to earlier detection of the disease, experts note.

"Years of research have improved our understanding of NHL and how best to treat it," commented report author Russell Patmore, consultant haematologist at Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust. 

"We now know there are more than 20 sub-types of the disease, each with their own distinct patterns of incidence and prognosis. And by knowing which type we’re dealing with, treatment can be tailored so it has the greatest benefit to patients," he explained.

The report has revealed huge differences in prognosis depending on the type of NHL, which all affect white blood cells. 

For example, mantle cell lymphoma is linked with just a one in four chance of five year survival but, at the the other end of the scale, around nine in 10 people diagnosed with follicular lymphoma can expect to survive past five years.

Future research, says Patmore, must now focus on "early detection and classification of lymphoma sub-types, as well as improving the quality of life for people living with the disease".