Lymphoma - Hodgkin: Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 10/2015

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done now to learn more about this type of lymphoma and how to treat it. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

Doctors are working to learn more about Hodgkin lymphoma, ways to prevent it, how to best treat it, and how to provide the best care to people diagnosed with this disease. The following areas of research may include new options for patients through clinical trials. Always talk with your doctor about the diagnostic and treatment options best for you.

  • Measuring treatment effectiveness. A focus of research for Hodgkin lymphoma is monitoring how well treatment is working to help make decisions about if and when to change treatment. Some new clinical trials are looking at changing chemotherapy depending on the results of a PET scan early in the treatment period.

  • New chemotherapy/targeted therapy. New drugs, new combinations of chemotherapy, lower doses, and shorter schedules are being studied in clinical trials to reduce short-term side effects and long-term health risks. Other drugs are being tested for recurrent Hodgkin lymphoma and may be added to the current standard chemotherapy regimens used for progressive disease. Several new types of drugs that work in a different way than chemotherapy, called targeted therapy, are also being studied. Many of these are given as a pill by mouth.

  • Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is designed to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight the cancer. It uses materials made either by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, or restore immune system function. Some treatments involve the use of antibodies that attach to proteins on the surface of cancer cells. Other antibodies are used to direct drugs to the cancer cells.

    One type of immunotherapy currently being studied is a class of drugs known as PD-1 inhibitors. The PD-1 pathway may be critical in the immune system’s ability to control cancer growth. Blocking this pathway with PD-1 and PD-L1 antibodies may help stop or slow cancer growth. Although it is still early in development, these new therapies show considerable promise for the treatment of recurrent Hodgkin lymphoma.

  • Gene profiling. Some researchers are looking at the specific genes and proteins that are found in Hodgkin lymphoma. These genes and proteins provide more information about the behavior of Hodgkin lymphoma, which may help better target the lymphoma with chemotherapy or immunotherapy.

  • Other treatments. Stem cell transplantation is being studied in combination with chemotherapy and immunotherapy regimens for new or recurrent Hodgkin lymphoma. Mini-allogeneic, also called non-myeloablative or reduced intensity transplant, and allogeneic transplantation are being tested in combination with chemotherapy and immunotherapy for new or recurrent Hodgkin lymphoma.

  • Reducing treatment intensity. Some earlier stage Hodgkin lymphoma subtypes have such high cure rates that less intense treatment plans are being tested. These lower intensity plans reduce the use of radiation therapy or decrease the amount of chemotherapy. The goal is to effectively treat the lymphoma with fewer long-term side effects. Often, patients receive a PET scan after a short course of chemotherapy to help define these treatment reductions.

  • Palliative care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current Hodgkin lymphoma treatments in order to improve patients’ comfort and quality of life.

Looking for More About the Latest Research?

If you would like additional information about the latest areas of research regarding Hodgkin lymphoma, explore these related items that take you outside of this guide:

  • To find clinical trials specific to your diagnosis, talk with your doctor or search online clinical trial databases now.

  • Visit ASCO’s CancerProgress.Net website to learn more about the historical pace of research for lymphoma. Please note this link takes you to a separate ASCO website.

  • Visit the website of the Conquer Cancer Foundation to find out how to help support research for every cancer type. Please note this link takes you to a separate ASCO website. 

The next section in this guide is Coping with Side Effects, and it offers some guidance in how to cope with the physical, emotional, and social changes that lymphoma and its treatment can bring. Or, use the menu on the side of your screen to choose another section to continue reading this guide.