In some cases, children with Hodgkin’s Disease can safely skip or significantly reduce the amount of radiation therapy they must receive if the cancer has been sufficiently shrunk due to chemotherapy, according to a study presented October 5, 2004 at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology’s 46th Annual Meeting in Atlanta.
Hodgkin’s Disease – a malignant tumor of the lymph nodes – can occur in both children and adults and is typically treated with an intensive combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. While the cure rate using that combination is extremely high, treatment related toxicity can lead to serious late side effects in patients, particularly in children.
In this study, researchers set out to discover if it was possible to reduce or eliminate some of the toxic treatments and still cure patients of their cancer. Between 1995 and 2001, 1,108 children with Hodgkin’s Disease were treated according to the extent of their disease within three different groups with two, four or six cycles of combination chemotherapy which contained effective, however, less toxic drugs than before. Doctors eliminated the follow-up radiation in patients whose cancer went into complete remission after the chemotherapy. For patients whose tumor was reduced more than 75 percent, doctors administered a lower dose of radiation therapy. The remaining patients were treated with a slightly higher follow-up dose of radiation.
More than four years later, the survival rate was 97 percent for all the children in the study. Of them, 90 percent had no trace of the disease, no other severe treatment related problem or any other type of cancer. The best results were seen in those patients who had been treated in the early stages of the disease.
“Based on this study, doctors can in some cases safely omit or reduce the amount of radiation therapy given to children with Hodgkin’s Disease without sacrificing cure rates,” said Ursula Ruhl, M.D., a radiation oncologist at Moabit Hospital in Berlin, Germany, and lead author of the radiation therapy section of the study. “I’m hopeful that these changes will allow more children affected by this disease to avoid some of the late side effects of cancer treatments to go on to be healthy, normal adults.”