Less intense chemo 'better for some Hodgkin's lymphoma patients'

In collaboration with the Press Association

Giving patients fewer doses of a type of chemotherapy increases the effectiveness of a Hodgkin's lymphoma treatment, and reduces side effects, according to German researchers.

A study looked at the effectiveness of different doses of a chemotherapy drug combination called BEACOPP. 

It found that survival rates for people with the disease were higher after six cycles of chemotherapy treatment, when compared with the eight cycles.

Hodgkin's lymphoma is a cancer that affects the lymph tissue. Around 1,700 people are diagnosed with the condition every year in the UK. Some - but not all - are treated with BEACOPP.

A total of 2,182 patients with advanced Hodgkin's lymphoma took part in the research, led by Dr Andreas Engert of the University Hospital of Cologne and colleagues, and published in The Lancet.

In the study, some patients were given eight doses of BEACOPP every three weeks and others were given six doses every three weeks. The authors concluded that the six-cycle treatment "should be the treatment of choice for advanced stage Hodgkin's lymphoma".

An imaging technique called a PET scan was also used to spot patients who could benefit from radiotherapy after chemotherapy.

The researchers added: "PET [scans] done after chemotherapy can guide the need for additional radiotherapy."

Debbie Coats, clinical information manager at Cancer Research UK, welcomed the study, saying: "This combination of treatments isn't the only option for people with advanced Hodgkin's lymphoma. But for those patients for whom it is appropriate, it's encouraging to see that reducing the number of chemotherapy doses made it work better and reduced the side effects of treatment.

"Such a treatment could be less disruptive to people's lives."

Copyright Press Association 2012

References

  • Engert A et al, Reduced-intensity chemotherapy and PET-guided radiotherapy in patients with advanced stage Hodgkin’s lymphoma (HD15 trial): a randomised, open-label, phase 3 non-inferiority trial. Lancet (2012) DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(11)61940-5