Hodgkin Disease

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Treating Hodgkin Disease TOPICS

Monoclonal antibodies for Hodgkin disease

Antibodies are proteins made by your immune system to help fight infections. Man-made versions, called monoclonal antibodies, can be designed to attack a specific target, such as a substance on the surface of lymphocytes (the cells in which lymphomas start).

Some monoclonal antibodies are now being used to treat Hodgkin disease.

Brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris™): This drug is an anti-CD30 antibody attached to a chemotherapy drug. Hodgkin disease cells usually have the CD30 molecule on their surface. The antibody acts like a homing signal, bringing the chemo drug to the lymphoma cells, where it enters the cells and causes them to die when they try to divide into new cells.

This drug has been shown to help many people whose Hodgkin disease has come back after other treatments, including a stem cell transplant (see next section), as well as people who can’t have a stem cell transplant. It is also being studied to see if it can be given with chemotherapy and if can be helpful earlier in the course of the disease.

Brentuximab is given as an infusion into a vein (IV) every 3 weeks. Common side effects include nerve damage (neuropathy), low blood counts, fatigue, fever, nausea and vomiting, infections, diarrhea, and cough. Rarely, more severe side effects occur during infusions, such as trouble breathing and low blood pressure.

Rituximab (Rituxan®): This antibody attaches to a substance called CD20 found on some types of lymphoma cells, which seems to cause the lymphoma cell to die. Rituximab may be used to treat nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin disease (NLPHD), often with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.

Rituximab is given as an IV infusion in the doctor’s office or clinic. When it is used by itself to treat lymphoma, it is usually given once a week for 4 weeks, which may then be repeated several months later. When it is combined with chemotherapy, it is most often given on the first day of each chemo cycle.

Common side effects are usually mild but may include chills, fever, nausea, rashes, fatigue, and headaches. Rarely, more severe side effects occur during infusions, such as trouble breathing and low blood pressure. Even if these symptoms occur during the first rituximab infusion, it is very unusual for them to recur with later doses. Rituximab can cause dormant (inactive) hepatitis B infections to become active again, sometimes leading to severe liver problems or even death. Your doctor may check your blood for signs of hepatitis before starting this drug. This drug may also increase the risk of certain infections for several months after the drug is stopped.

Last Medical Review: 12/10/2012
Last Revised: 02/07/2014