Hodgkin Lymphoma (HL) is rarely seen in <5-year olds in developed nations. Even in developing countries, where a tendency towards younger age of presentation has been shown, this represents a minority of cases. Little is known about the biology and behavior of these very young patients with HL as compared to older children.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed HL cases diagnosed and treated at our institution between 1975 and 2003. HL was diagnosed histopathologically and staged clinically. The pediatric age group ranged from 0–14 years. Treatment strategy for these very young children was focused on the elimination of radiation therapy (XRT).

Results: 69/368 (18.75%) patients were less than 5 years at diagnosis. When compared to older patients, there was a trend towards male predominance (M:F 4.31 v. 2.65; p=0.2), but no difference in the incidence of B-symptoms (26.1% v. 32.9%; p=1.0) and stage distribution (p=1.0). There was less mediastinal involvement (p=0.025) or bulky disease (p=0.01) in the younger patients. These patients had more mixed cellularity and less nodular sclerosis subtype (p=0.025). Fifty-five were treated with chemotherapy (CTX) alone, 12 with combined modality therapy (CMT) and 2 with XRT only. 35/55 CTX patients were treated with ABVD (20 per standard schedule, 13 modified and 2 unknown), 12 MOPP and 8 with hybrid or combination CTX (4 MOPP/ABVD, 3 COPP/ABVD and 1 unspecified). All CMT patients received ABVD (9 standard and 3 modified) and XRT (1500cGy/IF for 5, 1500cGy/EF for 4 and 2400cGy/EF, 2720cGy/IF and 3060cGy/IF for one each). The two XRT alone patients had stage I cervical disease and received 3900cGy and 3250cGy IFXRT. At ten years the EFS and OS for these patients under 5-years of age was 81.5% and 90.4%, respectively, compared to 75.5% and 90.5% for the children between 5 and 14 years of age (p>0.5 for both comparisons). OS (86.4% v. 100%; p=0.3, Log Rank test) and EFS (81.0% v. 90.9%; p=0.4, Log Rank test) for CTX v. CMT groups were not statistically significantly different. The CTX group had more B-symptoms (29.1% v. 16.1%) and higher stage disease (stage III/IV 47.3% v. 25%; stage IV 12.73% v. 0%).

Conclusions: HL patients <5years old do not present with higher risk disease than older children. They can successfully be treated without XRT using CTX alone. XRT can be reserved for treating the few who relapse. This may result in reduction in XRT related toxicity, which can be significant in these very young children.

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Corresponding author

Sign in via your Institution