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Chemotherapy and Drug Therapy

During chemotherapy, you're given potent drugs that must be toxic enough to damage or kill lymphoma cells. At the same time, they can take aim at normal cells and cause side effects. Yet, not everyone experiences side effects and people react differently.

Doctors commonly combine four or more chemotherapy drugs to treat Hodgkin lymphoma. The drugs are normally given through a catheter (a thin, flexible tube or intravenous line) surgically placed in a vein, normally in your upper chest.

Chemotherapy Drugs Used for Hodgkin Lymphoma

Each drug type works in a different way to kill the cancerous cells. Combining drug types can strengthen their effectiveness. The combinations are usually abbreviations for the first letter used in the mix. The most common and effective combinations used include:

  • ABVD: doxorubicin (Adriamycin®), bleomycin (Blenoxane®), vinblastine (Cytoxan®), dacarbazine (DTIC-Dome®)
  • BEACOPP: Blenoxane, etoposide (Etopophos®, Toposar®, VePesid®, VP-16), Adriamycin, cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan®), vincristine (Oncovin®), procarbazine (Matulane®), prednisone
  • Stanford V: mechlorethamine (Mustargen®), Adriamycin, Cytoxan, Oncovin, Blenoxane, etoposide, prednisone

If you would like to read about these drugs individually, including information about side effects, click here.

ABVD is used for stages I and II Hodgkin lymphoma (combined with involved field radiation therapy) and for stages III and IV (for a longer treatment period). ABVD is the first treatment choice for most adult patients because of its effectiveness and reputation for producing less toxic side effects than those of other drug combinations, which run a higher risk of infertility or leukemia. The cure rate for stages I and II is more than 95 percent.

Patients in stages I and II usually receive as few as two cycles of ABVD, several weeks apart, followed by involved field radiation therapy with a reduced radiation dose. If they're at higher risk, they generally undergo four to six cycles before radiation. Treatment can last from six to eight months.

Patients in stages III and IV are treated with six to eight courses of combination chemotherapy such as ABVD or BEACOPP. BEACOPP has a good cure rate but carries a small risk of leukemia or second cancers, making it a less common treatment in the United States and Canada. Doctors may use BEACOPP for aggressive, advanced Hodgkin lymphoma.

Stanford V is another drug combination doctors use with or without radiation therapy for advanced disease. It's given over a shorter time but more often than ABVD.

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last updated on Wednesday, April 24, 2013
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