Refractory, relapse and recurrence of Burkitts lymphoma, some layman definitions of words that nobody ever wants to hear.
Refractory Burkitt’s lymphoma is Burkitt’s lymphoma that quit or never responded to chemotherapy, or did, but never went into remission. The cancer becomes chemo resistant through mutations or was just resistant to begin with.
Relapse is when remission is achieved, but the Burkitt’s lymphoma came back. This means that with all modern tests available they were not able to detect any cancer after treatment. The cancer although not detectable with current technology was still there. Current technology can’t detect very small clusters of cancer cells or a single cell and the cancer just simply grew back. This usually happens within the first two years although some might say you’re cured after one, because the chances of relapse can dramatically decrease after one year.
When Burkitt’s comes back after two years it might be a recurrence of Burkitt’s lymphoma, but it is more than likely a new Burkitt’s lymphoma. Meaning it just came back after being cured the first time. They would have to compare the first with the second to tell for sure, but since Burkitt’s grows so fast that after two years it isn’t very likely it was the same Burkitt’s that was there the first time.
One of the good things about Burkitt’s lymphoma is that it can be cured, because it is a fast growing cancer, very fast for that matter. The cells can literally double in just 24 hours. Chemotherapy targets fast growing cells so a lot of times a person can be cured after going through a chemotherapy regimen. The chemotherapy regimens can be brutal and some of the most intense a person can have, because the chemotherapy has to get every one of those fast growing cells and not leave one behind, so you have to repeat the cycles often and might have many cycles of chemotherapy. Burkitts is a brutal disease, but many people are cured at first remission.
Jeff Runyan; Burkitt’s lymphoma patient, five years out from stage IV BL. RCHOP, CODOX-M/IVAC (R), 17 cycles of radiation. Remission June 2009.