Hodgkin's disease is a type of lymphoma that is named for Dr. Thomas Hodgkin, who first recognized it in 1832. Hodgkin's disease is a cancerous condition of lymphoid tissue. It differs from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma by the presence of abnormal cells called Reed-Sternberg cells. Because we have lymphoid tissue in many parts of our bodies, Hodgkin's disease can start almost anywhere. It can spread to almost any organ or tissue in the body, including the liver, bone marrow, and spleen. Hodgkin's disease is relatively rare. In 2007, the American Cancer Society estimates that about 8,200 people in the United States will be diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease.
At The Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center, our chief of the Division of Lymphoma is internationally renowned for his research and skills in diagnosing, treating, and managing all types of lymphoma, including Hodgkin's disease. Hematologist/oncologist Andre Goy, M.D., M.S., specializes in developing and investigating innovative new treatment advances for lymphoma, including stem cell transplantation, cellular therapy, immunotherapy, and novel targeted therapies that attack only the cancer cells and spare healthy tissue. Dr. Goy has trained and/or worked at some of the world's leading medical institutions, including Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, the University of Texas' M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, University Hospital Group of Paris, France, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. Dr. Goy's award-winning research is being funded by several pharmaceutical companies, the Susan Vaughan Foundation for Translational Research in Lymphoma, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
A crucial component to the accurate diagnosis of Hodgkin's disease is The Cancer Center's Special Diagnostic Immunology Laboratory, one of only several sites in New Jersey where comprehensive tests are available to detect cancer at the molecular level and to stage and classify it.
The Cancer Center also features the following unique and innovative services for patients with Hodgkin's disease:
- board-certified hematologists/oncologists, radiation oncologists, cytopathologists who are highly skilled in diagnosing, treating, and managing patients with Hodgkin's disease
- a Tissue Bank, in collaboration with Stamford University, Conn., to study Hodgkin's disease at the molecular level using samples of blood, serum, and tissue that are collected from patients and then stored
- one of the country's 10 largest stem cell transplantaton services
- a full range of diagnostic technology and imaging services to diagnose and monitor treatment, including the use of functional imaging, which helps to detect early resistance to chemotherapy. Treatment can be evaluated and adjusted if needed.
- clinical trials to investigate new medications and treatment methods
- a full range of support services
Risk factors include having a reduced immune system, having had infectious mononucleosis, and being a recipient of a transplanted organ.
Although Hodgkin's disease can be symptomless, signs of the disease can include:
- enlarged, painless lymph nodes
- coughing or shortness of breath caused by the swelling of lymph nodes inside the chest
- fever that may come and go during periods of several days or weeks
- night sweats
- weight loss
- decreased appetite
Ninety percent of all newly diagnosed patients are cured with chemotherapy alone or chemotherapy combined with external beam radiation therapy. The chemotherapy prescription usually includes multiple drugs. Two types of radiation therapy - extended field (to treat the site of the disease and surrounding lymph nodes) or total nodal radiation (neck, chest, underarms, upper abdomen, spleen, and lymph nodes in pelvis) - may be used in combination with chemotherapy. External beam radiation therapy may be used solely when the cancer is localized or as a palliative (ease) therapy to relieve symptoms affecting the brain and spinal cord.
If the Hodgkin's disease is resistant to standard therapy, a stem cell transplant may be advised. The Cancer Center's Adult Blood and Marrow Stem Cell Transplantation Program is one of the nation's 10 largest programs, where more than 200 stem cell transplants are performed each year to treat hematologic malignancies, other types of cancer, and serious blood disorders.