Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: New Treatments for Cancer of the Lymph Nodes

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Micrograph of a lymph node with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Image by Nephron

One in five of all lymphomas, a cancer that starts in the immune cells of the lymph nodes, are Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

This cancer primarily affects people who are between 15 and 35 years old, or over 55 years old.

The disease begins when B-lymphocytes, the immune cells that produce antibodies, become abnormal, creating Reed-Stemberg cells.

These cells were first cultured in vitro in 1978, facilitating research into the disease.

So what does medical science know about new treatments for this disease now?

Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: Aims of Treatment

Hodgkin’s lymphoma comprises just 1% of all cancers, but the likelihood of a cure has improved over the past four decades.

Currently, 94% of affected patients are expected to survive. Hodgkin’s lymphoma most commonly affects young adults, so oncologists focus on providing a life free of the effects of cancer and free from the effects of the treatments  used to cure it. Patients currently experience cancer as a long-term condition – patients may be cured of Hodgkin’s lymphoma yet die years later from complications due to chemotherapy.

Diagnosing Hodgkin’s Disease

Hodgkin’s lymphoma appears as an enlarged lymph node, but can spread to the organs, including the lungs. Symptoms include painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin, night sweats, weight loss, loss of appetite and general itchiness. Doctors can diagnose Hodgkin’s lymphoma with a biopsy of the lymph node – the malignant Reed-Stemberg cells are large, especially in lung cancer, and noncancerous cells usually surround the lymphoma cells.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is curable, but the earlier the disease is diagnosed, the more effective the treatment. When Professor of Oncology Andreas Engert at the University Hospital Cologne, Germany, was asked by Decoded Science about the prospects for those diagnosed quite late with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Professor Engert replied that “the chances of a full recovery are down to 50%“.

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