Published: 18-03-2013 00:00 | Updated: 30-10-2014 11:50

Increased survival rates for patients with Hodgkin lymphoma

A new population-based study from Karolinska Institutet has shown that the survival rate for patients with Hodgkin lymphoma – a form of cancer of the lymphatic system – has seen considerable improvements in recent decades. The number of patients suffering from treatment-related heart complications with fatal consequences has for example reduced as a result of new treatment strategies. Over 5,000 patients were involved in the study published in the scientific journal, Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Every year, around 160 people in Sweden contract Hodgkin lymphoma. In contrast to other types of lymphoma, a large number of the patients who develop Hodgkin are between the ages of 20-30. The prognosis for patients with Hodgkin lymphoma has however improved noticeably over the past 40 years. Patients who receive the diagnosis today have very good chance of being cured with chemotherapy or a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Since the 1980s, the treatment methods have been modified to reduce the risk of long-term side effects, without affecting treatment effectiveness. Side effects related to later treatment methods include secondary cancers and cardiovascular disease.

In the recently published study, all cases of Hodgkin lymphoma reported to the Swedish Cancer Registry between 1973 and 2006, a total of 5,462 patients, have been included. The aim of the study was to map the risks of treatment related fatalities caused by illnesses in the circulatory organs. The results show that the mortality rate of treatment-related illness, primarily of the blood vessels within the heart and brain, has decreased since the mid-1980s, most probably as a result of the concentrated efforts made to counteract side effects such as these.

"In addition to the continuing alterations within the health care programme to reduce the side effects of both radiotherapy and medical therapy to the blood vessels, it is likely that the long-term follow up of patients and recommendations to stop smoking have also contributed to the improvements", says Sandra Eloranta, doctoral student at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics and first author of the study. "The number of patients who nevertheless die as a consequence of treatment-related complications is low when compared to the number who die as a result of the cancer itself."

The researchers also believe that the results show that this positive development shall continue amongst patients who received their diagnosis in the early 2000s. With the introduction of new 'biological treatment methods' and new ways of following the treatment's effect on the cancer, more patients will be spared from 'over-treatment' and the mortality rate amongst the current patient group will ever increasingly resemble that of the general population.


Temporal trends in mortality from diseases of the circulatory system after treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma: a population-based cohort study in Sweden (1973 to 2006).
Eloranta S, Lambert P, Sjöberg J, Andersson T, Björkholm M, Dickman P
J. Clin. Oncol. 2013 Apr;31(11):1435-41