Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment

Treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma is based on several factors, including:1

  • Stage of the disease
  • Where the disease is located in the body
  • The age and general health of the person with cancer

While the goal of treatment is to cure Hodgkin lymphoma, doctors also consider possible long-term side effects when choosing the right treatment for each person.1

Types of treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma

Different types of treatment may be used for Hodgkin lymphoma, including:2,3

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery
  • Targeted therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Stem cell transplant

The treatments that are most often used for Hodgkin lymphoma are chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Some people, including children with Hodgkin lymphoma, may be candidates for high-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant. Pregnant people with Hodgkin lymphoma may receive watchful waiting or steroid therapy.1-3

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to stop cancer cells. Chemotherapy works by targeting fast-growing cells, such as cancer cells. However, there are other fast-growing cells in the body that can also be affected, such as those in the gastrointestinal tract and hair.2,3

Chemotherapy drugs may be used along with other drugs or alone. They may be taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle.2,3

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation. In Hodgkin lymphoma, the radiation is generally directed at lymph nodes or other areas of the body that are affected by the cancer.2,4

Surgery

Surgery to remove tumors may be used in the treatment of Hodgkin lymphoma.3

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapies may be used to treat some people with Hodgkin lymphoma. Targeted therapies are cancer treatments that block or slow the spread of cancer. They do this by interfering with specific areas of cancer cells that are involved in cell growth or by focusing on specific features that are unique to cancer cells.3

While chemotherapy drugs often kill cancer cells, targeted therapy usually blocks the growth of cancer cells. Types of targeted therapy used to treat Hodgkin lymphoma include:3

  • Monoclonal antibodies – These antibodies are made in a lab to identify and block cancer growth or kill cancer cells. They may also be used to deliver chemotherapy drugs to cancer cells.
  • Proteasome inhibitors – These drugs block the action of proteasomes, which remove proteins inside cancer cells. By blocking this action, these treatments increase the proteins in cancer cells and can cause them to die.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy helps boost the body's own immune system to fight cancer and may be used to treat Hodgkin lymphoma. It is also called biologic therapy. The immunotherapies currently approved to treat Hodgkin lymphoma include certain immune checkpoint inhibitors.2

Stem cell transplant

Stem cell transplants are another treatment option for some people with Hodgkin lymphoma. Stem cell transplants are used along with high doses of chemotherapy. The high doses destroy cancer cells. However, they also damage healthy blood cells. The transplant of stem cells (immature cells that can become new blood cells) is given to restore the bone marrow. The stem cells may be gathered from the person with cancer before chemotherapy. This is called an autologous transplant. Or, they may be given by a donor, which is called an allogeneic transplant.3,4

Clinical trials

Clinical trials are a type of research where new treatments are studied. Clinical trials are an important part of the scientific process to find and prove the safety and effectiveness of new treatments. They offer people a chance to receive the latest treatments and be closely monitored by doctors. You can learn more about clinical trials by talking to your doctor or visiting the ClinicalTrials.gov website. Your doctor can help you decide if a clinical trial may be right for you.2,3,5

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Written by: Emily Downward | Last reviewed: April 2021