Twenty-six patients with progressive Hodgkin's disease after conventional chemotherapy received intensive chemoradiotherapy and autologous bone marrow transplantation (ABMT); 19 also received additional involved-field radiotherapy. Twenty-one patients [81%, 95% confidence intervals (CI) 61% to 94%] attained complete (n = 18) or partial responses. Ten patients (38%, 95% CI 20% to 59%) are disease- free a median of 4.5 years later (range 3.5 to 7.0 years), including seven patients with continuous complete responses. The likelihood of overall response was not significantly influenced by any clinical or treatment variable examined. However, there was a trend favoring patients with higher Karnofsky scores, and higher scores were associated with attainment of complete responses (P = .06 and P = .02, respectively, Mann-Whitney U test). Both higher Karnofsky scores and shorter durations of disease before transplantation were associated with improved survival in a stepwise Cox multivariate analysis. The chief cause of failure was progression at sites previously involved with Hodgkin's disease. No patient relapsed in the marrow, and two of three patients with a history of marrow involvement with Hodgkin's disease achieved durable complete responses after transplantation. These data suggest that inadequate pretransplant conditioning, and not the reinoculation of occult tumor cells in the autologous marrow, caused most relapses. Fatal treatment-related toxicity occurred in six patients. Three patients died of idiopathic interstitial pneumonitis; each had previously received local mediastinal irradiation before intensive chemoradiotherapy. Intensive chemoradiotherapy and ABMT produces durable responses in some patients with Hodgkin's disease incurable with conventional therapy. Use of such therapies at the first sign of failure with conventional chemotherapy and development of more effective conditioning regimens should further improve results.

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