Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment: Less is More

Woman talking to doctor

Fewer cycles of chemotherapy and lower dosage radiation may work just as well as more grueling treatment for early-stage Hodgkin lymphoma. Each type of treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma has side effects that could last for months or longer, or that might not show up until long after treatment has ended. Some side effects, like loss of fertility, may be permanent. However, a new practice links those side effects occurring less often in those who had less intensive treatment compared to the more intensive treatment.

Researchers in Germany randomly assigned 1,370 patients with early-stage Hodgkin’s lymphoma into four groups: four cycles of chemotherapy followed by either 30 Gy of radiation or 20 Gy of radiation; or two cycles of chemo followed by 30 Gy of radiation or 20 Gy of radiation.

Gy is the abbreviation for gray, a unit of measurement for radiation. The chemotherapy was a four-drug combination – doxorubicin, bleomycin, vinblastine, and dacarbazine (ABVD) – the standard treatment for the disease.

After five years, 91.1 percent of patients in the weakest treatment group (two cycles of chemo and the lesser dosage of radiation) had not experienced a relapse, while 93 percent of those in the strongest treatment group (four cycles of chemo and the higher dosage of radiation) had the researchers found.

Though there was a slight difference, the numbers