Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a unique neoplasm of B lymphocytes. Recent data provide new understandings of the pathogenesis and options for staging and therapy of the disease. Three specific topics are addressed in this chapter.
In Section I, Dr. Richard Ambinder reviews implications of the relationship of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This relation includes varying geographic epidemiologic associations, including varying associations with the clinical syndrome of infectious mononucleosis. There are plausible mechanisms, including processes initiated by viral proteins, by which EBV might lead to tumorigenesis. These mechanisms include promotion of genetic instability and alteration of normal processes of apoptosis. In addition to an epidemiologic association and potential role in pathogenesis, viral antigens may pose theoretical targets for anti-cancer therapies, including vaccination.
In Section II, Dr. Sigrid Stroobants describes the potential role of positron emission tomographic (PET) scanning. By assessing differences in the metabolic activities of cancer cells, PET scanning may be superior to computerized tomographic scanning, which is limited to showing structural anatomical abnormalities. In patients with Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, PET scanning has been tested as an initial staging tool, to assess the rate of therapeutic response from a prognostic perspective, and to differentiate residual tumor from fibrotic masses in patients who have completed therapy. Particularly in assessing the nature of a residual mass seen with other post-therapeutic imaging modalities, PET scanning may provide unique information; very high negative predictive values have been reported. However, before this technology can be recommended for incorporation into standard management, properly conducted prospective trials are required to better evaluate the clinical utility of PET with respect to eventual patient outcomes.
In Section III, Dr. Ralph Meyer reviews current data regarding the management of patients with limited-stage Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Over the past decade, standard treatment has evolved to consist of combined-modality therapy that includes an abbreviated course of chemotherapy and involved-field radiation. As this therapy continues to include radiation therapy, patients will remain at risk of long-term toxicities that include the development of second cancers and cardiovascular events. These “late-effects” now account for more deaths than those attributed to progressive Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Comparative data testing the role of chemotherapy alone are now available and demonstrate that omission of radiation therapy results in small but statistically significant reduction in disease control, but no detectable differences in overall survival. Further follow-up will clarify whether chemotherapy alone is the preferred treatment option; at present patients should be informed of the trade-offs involved in choosing between this option and combined modality therapy.