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Overview of the treatment of classical Hodgkin lymphoma in adults

George P Canellos, MD
Section Editor
Arnold S Freedman, MD
Deputy Editor
Alan G Rosmarin, MD


The treatment of patients with Hodgkin lymphoma (HL, formerly called Hodgkin's disease) is primarily guided by the clinical stage of disease as determined by the Cotswolds classification (table 1). This staging system is important in determining not only prognosis and treatment, but is also important for the comparison of results obtained with different types of treatment in different studies. (See "Staging and prognosis of Hodgkin lymphoma".)

This topic will provide a brief review of the selection of treatment based upon disease stage. The initial evaluation, diagnosis, and staging of patients with HL are discussed separately, as is a more detailed description of treatment selection for patients with early or advanced stage HL. This topic reviews classical HL. The rare subtype of nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma is presented separately. (See "Initial evaluation and diagnosis of classical Hodgkin lymphoma in adults" and "Staging and prognosis of Hodgkin lymphoma" and "Epidemiology, pathologic features, and diagnosis of classical Hodgkin lymphoma" and "Treatment of nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma".)


Over the past century, HL has been converted from a uniformly fatal disease to one that is curable in approximately 75 percent of patients worldwide. While the majority of patients will be cured of their lymphoma, treatment-related toxicities have become a competing cause of late mortality. As such, the selection of therapy must balance the desire to maintain a high rate of cure and the need to minimize long-term complications. Treatment has evolved such that patients with early stage disease can achieve long term remission with less intensive therapy, while more intensive therapy is reserved for patients with advanced stage disease. Despite agreement that therapy should be tailored to the stage of disease, there is some disagreement regarding what should constitute intensive and less intensive therapy.

The endpoint of many clinical trials is freedom from recurrence. Although in many studies an increased relapse risk in one treatment arm does not translate into a survival difference, survival differences are often seen in the following situations:

A large difference in number of recurrences seen

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Nov 29, 2016.
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