Childhood Hodgkin lymphoma

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Chemotherapy for childhood Hodgkin lymphoma

Chemotherapy uses anticancer, or cytotoxic, drugs to destroy cancer cells. It is usually used to treat childhood Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). When planning treatment, the healthcare team will consider the type of HL, stage, size (bulkiness) of the tumour and risk group, as well as your child’s personal needs. Based on this information they will plan the drugs, doses and schedules of chemotherapy. Your child may also receive other treatments.

Chemotherapy is given to destroy cancer cells in the body. It is usually a systemic therapy. This means that the drugs travel through the bloodstream to reach and destroy cancer cells all over the body, including those that may have broken away from the primary tumour.

The drugs may be given by mouth or by a needle in a vein (called intravenous injection). Sometimes a special device called a central venous catheter (tube) may be used to safely give the drugs. It is usually placed in the operating room at the start of chemotherapy and left in place until treatment is finished. Find out more about central venous catheter.

Chemotherapy drugs commonly used for childhood HL

The most common chemotherapy drugs used to treat childhood HL are:

  • cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Procytox)
  • doxorubicin (Adriamycin)
  • vincristine (Oncovin)
  • bleomycin (Blenoxane)
  • procarbazine hydrochloride (Matulane)
  • dacarbazine (DTIC)
  • etoposide (Vepesid, VP-16)
  • vinblastine (Velbe)
  • prednisone
  • dexamethasone (Decadron, Dexasone)
  • methotrexate
  • cytarabine (Cytosar, Ara-C)
  • cisplatin (Platinol AQ)

These drugs are usually given in combination to treat childhood HL. When different drugs are given together, they are more effective than any single drug alone.

Chemotherapy combinations commonly used to treat childhood HL


cyclophosphamide, vincristine, prednisone and procarbazine hydrochloride


cyclophosphamide, vincristine, prednisone and dacarbazine


doxorubicin, bleomycin, vinblastine and dacarbazine


vincristine, prednisone, procarbazine hydrochloride and doxorubicin


cyclophosphamide, vincristine, procarbazine hydrochloride and prednisone with doxorubicin, bleomycin and vinblastine


vincristine, etoposide, prednisone and doxorubicin


vincristine, doxorubicin, methotrexate and prednisone


doxorubicin, bleomycin, vincristine and etoposide


doxorubicin, bleomycin, vincristine and etoposide with prednisone and cyclophosphamide


bleomycin, etoposide, doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide, vincristine, prednisone and procarbazine hydrochloride

If childhood HL does not respond to drugs used in earlier treatments or if it recurs (comes back), other drugs that may be used are:

  • ifosfamide (Ifex)
  • vinorelbine (Navelbine)
  • gemcitabine (Gemzar)
  • carboplatin (Paraplatin, Paraplatin AQ)
  • etoposide (Vepesid, VP-16)
  • dexamethasone (Decadron)
  • cisplatin (Platinol AQ)
  • cytarabine (Cytosar, Ara-C)
  • L-asparaginase (Kidrolase)
  • methotrexate

Information about specific cancer drugs

The following websites have information about specific drugs used to treat cancer in children.

Questions to ask about chemotherapy

Find out more about chemotherapy. To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about chemotherapy.


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