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Targeted therapy for Hodgkin lymphoma

Targeted drugs work by ‘targeting’ those differences that help a cancer cell to survive and grow.

Some seek out and destroy cancer cells. Others help the body to attack the cancer.

When you have them


Brentuximab is sometimes used to treat Hodgkin lymphoma that has come back after treatment or when previous treatments have not worked.


You might have rituximab if you have advanced lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma. This is a rare type of Hodgkin lymphoma.

You usually have rituximab with chemotherapy. You might have this combination of treatment when you are first diagnosed, or if the lymphoma doesn't respond to chemotherapy or has come back.

Brentuximab and rituximab are a type of monoclonal antibody. They target specific proteins on lymphoma cells and help the immune system to pick out these cells and kill them. Because of the way they work they are sometimes called a targeted immunotherapy drug.

How you have it

Most of the targeted therapy drugs for Hodgkin lymphoma are drips that you have into your bloodstream (intravenously). Your treatment team will tell you how often and when you have them.

Side effects

The side effects depend on the type of drug you have. Common side effects include:

  • allergic reaction
  • flu-like symptoms including fever, muscle aches and sickness
  • diarrhoea
  • skin rashes
  • tiredness

When you go home

Treatment with targeted drugs can be difficult to cope with for some people. Your nurse will give you a number to call (advice line) if you have any problems at home.

Contact your advice line if you have side effects or any concerns.

Clinical trials

You might have targeted therapy treatment as part of a clinical trial for Hodgkin lymphoma.

Researchers are looking at using rituximab as a first treatment for lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma. Early studies seem to show that is works well. But it will be some time before we know exactly how helpful it is.

Last reviewed: 
12 Feb 2018
  • Brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris®) 50 mg powder for concentrate for solution for infusion

    All Wales Medicine Strategy Group, 2015

  • Brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris®) 50mg powder for concentrate for solution for infusion

    Scottish Medicines Consortium, 2014

  • Electronic Medicines Compendium

    Accessed 2014

  • Novel therapy for Hodgkin lymphoma

    CL Batlevi and A Younes, 2013

    ASH Hematology - The Eduction Programm,, Volume 2013, Issue 1

  • The emerging role for rituximab in the treatment of nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma

    LS Maeda and RH Advani, 2009

    Current Opinion in Oncology, Volume 21, Issue 9

  • Guidelines for the investigation and management of nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma
    P McKay, P Fielding, E Gallop-Evans and others
    British Journal of Haematology, 2016, Volume 172

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