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PURPOSE: To assess the effect of more extensive radiotherapy and of adjuvant combination chemotherapy on long-term outcome of early-stage Hodgkin's disease. METHODS: In a collaborative worldwide systematic overview, individual patient data were centrally reviewed on 1,974 patients in eight randomized trials of more versus less extensive radiotherapy and on 1,688 patients in 13 trials of radiotherapy plus chemotherapy versus radiotherapy alone. Crude mortality data on 226 patients in two other trials of chemotherapy were also reviewed. RESULTS: More extensive radiotherapy reduced the risk of treatment failure (resistant or recurrent disease) at 10 years by more than one third (31.3% v 43.4% failures; P < .00001), but there was no apparent improvement in overall 10-year survival (77.1 % v 77.0% alive). The addition of chemotherapy to radiotherapy halved the 10-year risk of failure (15.8% v 32.7%; P < .00001), with a small, nonsignificant improvement in survival (79.4% v 76.5% alive). This involved a reduction of borderline significance for deaths from Hodgkin's disease (12.3% v 15.4% dead at 10 years; P = .07), which was partly counterbalanced by a nonsignificant excess of deaths from other causes (12.4% v 10.0% 10-year risk). CONCLUSION: More extensive radiotherapy fields or the addition of chemotherapy to radiotherapy in the initial treatment of early-stage Hodgkin's disease had a large effect on disease control, but only a small effect on overall survival. Recurrences could be prevented by more extensive radiotherapy or by additional chemotherapy. However, if chemotherapy had not been given initially, recurrences were generally salvageable by re-treatment with chemotherapy. Hence, less intensive primary treatment--particularly a reduction in radiotherapy fields--appears to achieve similar survival rates as more intensive treatment, although more randomized evidence is needed to confirm this.

Original publication




Journal article


J Clin Oncol

Publication Date





830 - 843


Antineoplastic Agents, Chemotherapy, Adjuvant, Hodgkin Disease, Humans, Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic, Statistics as Topic, Survival Analysis, Treatment Outcome