Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system that affects the B-lymphocytes, causing them to accumulate in the lymph nodes. The cancer is named after Thomas Hodgkin who first described abnormalities in the lymphatic system in 1832. However, Hodgkin did note that the earliest description of the disease may have been given by Marcello Malpighi in 1666.
While working at Guy’s Hospital, Hodgkin studied seven patients who had enlarged but painless lymph nodes. One of these individuals was a patient of Robert Carswell, whose report of the patient included many illustrations that were used as an aid in early descriptions of the condition. Hodgkin wrote a report on the seven patients entitled “On some morbid appearances of the absorbent glands and spleen,” which was presented to the Medical and Chirurgical Society in London in 1832 and then published in the society’s journal, “Medical-Chirurgical Society Transactions.”
In 1856, Samuel Wilks reported on a further set of patients with the same disease described by Hodgkin and in 1965 he published a paper entitled “Cases of Lardaceous Disease and Some Allied Affections with Remarks.” In that paper, Wilks referred to the condition as “Hodgkin’s disease,” in honor of Hodgkin’s previous contribution to the subject.
In 1872, Langhans described the features of Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the microscopic level and Carl Sternberg and Dorothy Reed first referred to the cytogenic characteristics of the cancerous cells in 1898 and 1902, respectively. Today. these cells are called Reed-Sternberg cells.
Treatments for Hodgkin’s lymphoma were developed as early on as 1894, when Fowler’s solution, which was a medicine containing arsenic was used. In 1932, Chevalier and Bernard described the use of radiation therapy to treat the condition, mainly for palliative purposes. Radiotherapy started to prove successful as a treatment in the mid-forties. In 1963, a combination of chemotherapy agents referred to as MOMP was developed, which consisted of cyclophosphamide, vincristine, methotrexate, and prednisone. Another drug regimen was introduced in 1987 called EBVP (epirubicin, bleomycin, vinblastine, prednisone).
In 1992, The German Hodgkin’s Study Group designed the BEACOPP regimen which involved the use of seven chemotherapy agents, namely bleomycin, etoposide, adriamycin, cyclophosphamide, oncovin, procarbazine and prednisone.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc