Primary and secondary central nervous system lymphomas (PCNSL/SCNSL) are aggressive rare malignancies with dismal outcomes. Encouraging data have emerged from Phase I/II clinical trials treating relapsed/refractory PCNSL/SCNSL with ibrutinib. We analysed 33 patients who received ibrutinib, alone or with other therapies, for PCNSL (n = 9) or SCNSL (n = 24). The objective response rate was 58% (complete response 55%). The median progression-free survival and overall survival for patients with PCNSL were both 3·1 months; for SCNSL, 10·2 and 11·5 months respectively. Only one invasive fungal infection was observed, despite concurrent or recent use of dexamethasone 8–16 mg daily in 14 patients (42%). Ibrutinib has encouraging activity in these aggressive malignancies.