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Cancer Health Center

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Adult Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Early Unfavorable Hodgkin Lymphoma

Drug combinations described in this section include the following:

Patients are designated as having early unfavorable Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) if they have clinical stage I or stage II disease and one or more of the following risk factors:

Recommended Related to Leukemia & Lymphoma

Understanding Hodgkin Lymphoma -- Diagnosis and Treatment

The diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma can only be made by a tissue biopsy -- cutting a tissue sample for examination. If you have an enlarged, painless lymph node that your doctor suspects may be due to Hodgkin lymphoma, tissue will be taken for biopsy or the entire node will be removed. The diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma is sometimes confirmed by the presence of a type of cell called a Reed-Sternberg cell. If a biopsy reveals that you do have Hodgkin lymphoma, you may need additional tests to determine...

Read the Understanding Hodgkin Lymphoma -- Diagnosis and Treatment article > >

  • B symptoms (fever ≥38°C, soaking night sweats, weight loss ≥10% within 6 months).
  • Extranodal disease.
  • Bulky disease (≥10 cm or >33% of the chest diameter on chest x-ray).
  • Three or more sites of nodal involvement.
  • Sedimentation rate of ≥50 mm/h.

Patients with early unfavorable HL showed relapse rates over 30% at 5 years with radiation therapy alone, prompting evaluation of chemotherapy plus involved-field radiation therapy (IF-XRT) versus chemotherapy alone.[1] The late mortality from solid tumors, especially in the lung, breast, gastrointestinal tract, and connective tissue, and from cardiovascular disease makes radiation therapy a less attractive option unless therapeutic benefits exceed the long-term complications.[2,3,4,5,6]

A randomized, prospective trial from the National Cancer Institute of Canada (NCIC) involving 276 patients with early unfavorable HL compared ABVD for four to six cycles to ABVD for two cycles plus extended-field radiation therapy (EF-XRT); with a median follow-up of 11.3 years, the freedom-from-progression favored combined modality therapy (86% vs. 94%; P = .006), but the overall survival (OS) was better for ABVD alone (92% vs. 81%; P = .04).[7][Level of evidence: 1iiA] The trend toward a worse survival for the combined modality arm was attributed to excess secondary malignancies and cardiovascular deaths. In this trial, the extended-field radiation used higher doses and significantly larger exposure to body sites than are employed in current practice.

A randomized study from the Southwest Oncology Group of clinically staged patients (no laparotomy) compared subtotal lymphoid radiation to 3 months of AV followed by subtotal lymphoid radiation therapy; the combined modality arm showed superior failure-free survival (94% vs. 81%; P < .001) but not OS at 3.3 years' median follow-up.[8][Level of evidence: 1iiDiii]

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