The History of Treating Hodgkin Lymphoma
Hodgkin lymphoma, also known as Hodgkin’s disease, is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system. The disease was first described by Thomas Hodgkin in 1832, who observed an abnormal mass of cells in the lymph nodes of a patient. However, it wasn’t until the 20th century that the specific subtype of lymphoma now known as Hodgkin lymphoma was identified and distinguished from other types of lymphoma. In the decades that followed, significant progress was made in understanding the biology of the disease and developing new treatment options, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
One major advancement in understanding the biology of Hodgkin lymphoma came in the 1960s, with the discovery of the Reed-Sternberg cell by two pathologists, Dorothy Reed Mendenhall and Carl Sternberg. They independently described the presence of large, abnormal cells in the lymph nodes of patients with Hodgkin’s disease. These cells were later named Reed-Sternberg cells in their honor. The discovery of the Reed-Sternberg cell helped to establish Hodgkin lymphoma as a distinct entity and led to further research on the specific genetic changes that occur in these cells, which was crucial in understanding the biology of the disease and developing new treatment options.
In terms of treatment, radiation therapy and chemotherapy have been the mainstay of treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma for many years. In the 1960s and 1970s, researchers developed more precise and targeted radiation therapy techniques, such as involved-field radiation therapy (IFRT) and extended-field radiation therapy (EFRT), which led to improved outcomes for patients with early-stage Hodgkin lymphoma. Additionally, the introduction of combination chemotherapy regimens in the 1970s and 1980s greatly improved the cure rates for patients with Hodgkin lymphoma, with many patients achieving long-term remission.
More recently, there have been many new developments in the treatment of Hodgkin lymphoma, including the use of immunotherapy drugs such as brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris) and nivolumab (Opdivo). These drugs are designed to target specific proteins on the surface of cancer cells, leading to their destruction. Additionally, new immunotherapy drugs, such as rituximab, which targets the CD20 protein, are being used to treat Hodgkin lymphoma patients.
Overall, the progress made in understanding the biology of Hodgkin lymphoma and developing new treatment options has greatly improved the outlook for patients with this disease, with many patients now experiencing long-term remission with fewer late-effects.