The present: optimizing therapy--too much or too little?

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Despite the use of less toxic chemotherapy and more limited doses and fields of radiation, the prognosis for patients with all stages of classical Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) has continued to improve over the last 20 years. The challenge today is better identification of prognostic markers that will allow even further reduction of therapy in the most favorable subsets and new approaches for those who have a high risk of failure with current approaches. Most ongoing clinical trials for newly diagnosed HL base therapy decisions on the result of an interim restaging PET/CT, de-escalating for early responders and escalating for patients with a suboptimal response. While awaiting the results of these important trials, the debates rage on regarding the use of consolidative radiotherapy in early stage HL and the use of escalated BEACOPP in advanced stage disease. Unfortunately, we still face the very difficult decision with nearly every patient with HL of "too much," risking long-term consequences, or "too little," risking relapse and the need for additional toxic therapy. At present, we need to make these very difficult initial treatment decisions with inadequate data, but reassured by the excellent outcomes for most patients and encouraged by the new agents available for those who fail first-line therapy.


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