PET Scans Can Spare Lymphoma Patients Intense Chemo, Study Finds

Patients diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma are very likely to find chemotherapy is a required part of their treatment. This method for battling cancer is well-proven to produce results in many cases, but it can take a tremendous toll on the body in the process. When it is not strictly required or not likely to produce results, patients may benefit from taking a different path. A new study has shed light on how it may be feasible for doctors to determine when lymphoma patients should continue with chemo and which ones are not likely to gain from the treatment.

The recent study involves the use of positron emission tomography, or PET scans. It involves more than 1,200 patients, all with advanced Hodgkin lymphoma. Each patient in the study was scanned using PET technology after they had been given two complete cycles of chemo. Patients who presented with clear PET scans following the two rounds were split into two groups. One group moved on with chemo, including using of the drug bleomycin. The other continued with standard chemo without the drug.

Patients in the trail who stopped using bleomycin were shown to have the same survival rates as those who continued to receive it. The group that avoided continued use of bleomycin, however, were spared the harsh side effects of the drug, which include the potential for scarring of the lungs.

Patients in the original group who did not have clear PET scans after two rounds of standard chemo were not overlooked. They were given more intense rounds of chemo instead, meant to address what the scans showed was very likely more resistant forms of the disease.

While more research is required before treatment protocols are likely to change, the research shows the potential benefits PET scans may have in helping customize treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma. Bleomycin has long been used as a highly effective treatment in this form of cancer, but its potential side effects are troubling to doctors and patients alike. By being able to gauge the benefits of the drug’s use, PET scans could prove critical in the treatment process for this disease.

People who are diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma are urged to discuss all treatment options with their healthcare providers. PET scans after initial chemo may prove helpful in determining the need to continue bleomycin and they may help isolate more resistant cases, enabling doctors to change treatment protocols when required to improve outcomes.

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