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Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment

Hematologists and medical oncologists at Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center are part of large multidisciplinary teams whose approach to cancer and blood disorders is to treat the entire individual — not just the disease.

A hematologist is a physician who specializes in blood diseases and disorders in blood-forming organs. Penn hematologists diagnose and treat patients with blood disorders such as hemophilia, leukemia, platelet disorders and anemia.

A medical oncologist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Penn oncologists work closely with radiation and surgical oncologists to treat cancer patients with medical therapies such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy and bone marrow and stem cell transplants.

Together, you, your team of hematologist-oncologists, and other subspecialists at Penn will help determine what treatment is right for you based on the stage and classification of your lymphoma.

Treatment for Hodgkin Lymphoma

Hodgkin lymphoma is very treatable and highly curable with standard therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Because Hodgkin lymphoma affects a younger population, our hematologist-oncologists also work closely with Penn Fertility Care to work with patients to preserve their fertility.

Below are treatments for Hodgkin Lymphoma.

Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant

Your doctor may speak with you about bone marrow and stem cell transplants.

There are two kinds of bone marrow and stem cell transplantation in people with Hodgkin lymphoma.

  • An autologous transplant collects your own bone marrow or stem cells before the cancer treatment. After treatment, the collected cells are returned to you to replace the cells destroyed by the cancer treatment.
  • An allogeneic transplant uses donor bone marrow or stem cells to replace the cells destroyed by the cancer treatment. A series of special tests are performed to find a donor who is a match for you.

About Our Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Program

Our bone marrow and stem cell transplant team are the same clinicians responsible for your overall treatment and care.

Other ways our bone marrow and stem cell transplant program are unique:

  • Our program is backed by a premier bone marrow and stem cell transplant research program that continues to make history in the development of new treatments through basic science research and clinical trials.
  • We have nationally recognized experts available to provide information, care and support throughout the transplant process.
  • Our bone marrow and stem cell transplant program is one of the oldest and largest in the country, and has pioneered new therapies to treat blood cancers.
  • We have one of the few hematologic malignancy (leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma) research programs in the country that is approved and funded by the National Cancer Institute.
  • We have a dedicated hospital unit that is completely equipped to support transplant patients. Experienced nurses who understand the medical and personal issues patients face during transplant staff the unit.
  • We serve as medical advisors for area outreach organizations, such as the Multiple Myeloma Networking Group and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Learn more about our Bone Marrow and Stem Cell transplantation program.


Chemotherapy uses drugs to attack cancer cells, slowing or stopping their ability to grow and multiply.

Chemotherapy is usually given:

  • Orally: taking pills or capsules by mouth
  • Intravenously (IV): injecting medication into a vein
  • Intramuscularly (IM): injecting medication into a muscle
  • Subcutaneously: injecting medication under the skin

Chemotherapy is not a "one-size-fits-all" cancer treatment.

The wide range of cancer-fighting drugs attack different types of cancer cells at varying stages of cell development.

Penn medical oncologists are experts at determining which drug or combination of drugs will be the most effective in treating your type of Hodgkin lymphoma.

For a comprehensive list of most commonly used chemotherapy agents, please visit OncoLink.

Complications and Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy kills cells in the body. Standard chemotherapy treatments do not distinguish "good" cells from "bad" cells. Therefore, even healthy cells may be killed.

Because of this, people who undergo standard chemotherapy are at high risk of infection. Your physician team can help you understand your risks, and how to lower your risk of infection.

Other side effects from chemotherapy include:

  • Low blood counts
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials benefit patients with access to breakthrough therapies and treatments.

Because more and more treatments for leukemia and blood cancers are becoming available, it's important to speak with your doctor about available clinical trials throughout your entire cancer treatment.

Cancer specialists at Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center are part of the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG), one of the largest clinical cancer research organizations in the nation.

With the ECOG, cancer specialists from Penn are designing clinical trials to test novel therapies, new agents, or new treatment standards for people with leukemia.

Since clinical trials are updated frequently, it's important to ask your physician about clinical trials throughout your entire treatment.

Find a Hodgkin lymphoma clinical trial.

Advantages of Clinical Trials

Being in a clinical trial offers you the opportunity to be treated with treatments, medications or agents that are not otherwise available.

It also gives you the opportunity to be treated by, and have your case reviewed by experts who are directly involved with the design of the treatment.

Through clinical trials:

  • Diagnosing cancer has become more precise
  • Radiation and surgical techniques have advanced
  • Medications are more successful
  • Combinations of medical, surgical and radiation therapy are improving treatment effectiveness and enhancing outcomes
  • Strategies to address the late effects of cancer and its treatment have been developed to improve the quality of life

Complementary and Integrative Therapies for Hodgkin Lymphoma

In addition to standard treatments and clinical trials, you may wish to add additional therapies and treatments such as massage therapy, acupuncture and art therapy.

These therapies do not have curative intent, and are designed to complement standard treatments – not take their place.

Integrative Oncology Services

Our integrative oncology services can supplement traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.

While conventional medicine plays a critical role in eradicating cancer, integrative oncology services offer you and your family ways to minimize or reduce the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment, and promote healing and recovery.

We are knowledgeable of and support complementary cancer treatments. Our cancer teams work with patients and families to integrate these supportive programs into the overall care plan, while ensuring the safety and health of patients.

Our integrative supportive services include:

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. A radiation therapy schedule usually consists of a specific number of treatments given over an extended period of time. In many cases, radiation therapy is capable of killing all of the cancer cells.

Radiation oncologists at Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center are recognized for techniques that target radiation precisely to the disease site while sparing nearby tissue.

Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy

Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) uses a computer-controlled device, called a linear accelerator, to deliver precise doses of radiation to tumors or specific areas within the tumors.

Radiation therapy, including IMRT, stops cancer cells from dividing and growing, thus slowing or stopping tumor growth. In many cases, radiation therapy is capable of killing all of the cancer cells, including those that may have been missed during surgery.

Using 4-D computed tomography (CT) images along with computerized dose calculations, IMRT allows for the radiation dose to conform more precisely to the shape of the tumor by controlling, or modulating, the intensity of the radiation beam while tracking any movement of the tumor. The therapy allows higher radiation doses to be delivered to areas within the tumor while minimizing the dose to the surrounding area.

Read more about radiation therapy at Penn Medicine.

Proton Therapy

Proton therapy is a non-invasive, incredibly precise cancer treatment that uses a beam of protons moving at very high speeds to destroy the DNA of cancer cells, killing them and preventing them from multiplying. Unlike conventional radiation that can affect surrounding healthy tissue as it enters the body and targets the tumor, proton therapy's precise, high dose of radiation is extremely targeted. This targeted precision causes less damage to healthy, surrounding tissue.

Learn more about proton therapy treatment at Penn Medicine.

Vaccine Therapy

Medical oncologists at Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center are internationally recognized for the research and development of therapeutic cancer vaccines. Cancer vaccines are designed to teach the immune system to attack and destroy cancer cells.

Normally, when foreign cells such as bacteria or viruses enter the body, the immune system responds to the invasion and clears the body of the infection. The immune system does not naturally recognize cancer cells as being foreign so it does not mount an immune response against the tumor. Cancer vaccines stimulate the immune system to recognize and attack the cancer cells.

Cancer vaccines are intended to delay or stop cancer cell growth, shrink tumors, prevent cancer from coming back and eliminate cancer cells that have not been killed by other forms of treatment. The vaccines are sometimes made with cells from the patient's own tumor that are modified in the lab and then given back to the patient to stop, destroy or delay the cancer.

Read more about vaccine therapy.