Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment

Treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma is based on several factors, including the stage of the disease, where the disease is located in the body, the age of the individual, and their general health. While the goal of treatment is to cure the Hodgkin lymphoma, doctors also consider possible long-term side effects when choosing the appropriate treatment for the individual patient.1

Types of treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma

There are several different types of treatment that may be used for Hodgkin lymphoma, including:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery
  • Targeted therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Stem cell transplant2,3

The treatments that are most often used for Hodgkin lymphoma are chemotherapy and radiation therapy.1 Certain patients, including children with Hodgkin lymphoma may be candidates for high-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant, and pregnant women with Hodgkin lymphoma may receive watchful waiting or steroid therapy.2,3


Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to stop cancer cells. Chemotherapy medications may be used in combination, and they may be taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle. 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

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

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapies may be used to treat certain patients with Hodgkin lymphoma. Targeted therapies are cancer treatments that block or slow the spread of cancer by interfering with specific areas of cancerous cells that are involved in the cancer cell's growth, or by focusing on particular characteristics that are unique to cancer cells. While chemotherapy drugs are often cytotoxic, meaning they kill cancer cells, targeted therapy is typically cytostatic, meaning it blocks the growth of cancer cells. The types of targeted therapy that may be used to treat Hodgkin lymphoma include monoclonal antibodies and proteasome inhibitors. Monoclonal antibodies are created in the laboratory to identify and block cancer growth or kill cancer cells, or may be used to deliver chemotherapy medications to cancer cells. Proteasome inhibitors block the action of proteasomes, which remove proteins inside cancer cells. By blocking the normal action of proteasomes, these treatments can help cause the proteins to increase in the cancer cell and can lead to the cancer cell's death.3


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

Stem cell transplant

Stem cell transplants are another potential treatment option for people with Hodgkin lymphoma. Stem cell transplants are used in combination with high doses of chemotherapy. The high dose of chemotherapy destroys the cancer cells and also damages 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 patient prior to chemotherapy (called an autologous transplant), or they may be given by a donor (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, and they offer patients a chance to receive the latest treatments and be closely monitored by healthcare professionals. Clinical trials can be found by talking to a doctor or through the website ClinicalTrials.gov. Patients can discuss treatment options with their doctor to determine if they might be eligible to participate in a clinical trial.2,3,5

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Written by: Emily Downward | Last reviewed: October 2020