Purpose: To investigate whether treatment results in intermediate-stage Hodgkin's lymphoma can be improved by rapid application of non-cross-resistant drugs, the 10-drug regimen cyclophosphamide, vincristine, procarbazine, and prednisone (COPP), doxorubicin, bleomycin, and vinblastine (ABV), and ifosfamide, methotrexate, etoposide, and prednisone (IMEP), repeated every 6 weeks, was compared with conventional alternating COPP/doxorubicin, bleomycin, vinblastine, and dacarbazine (ABVD) administered every 8 weeks.
Patients and methods: From January 1988 to January 1993, 996 patients in stage I or II Hodgkin's lymphoma with at least one risk factor (massive mediastinal tumor, massive spleen involvement, extranodal disease, elevated ESR, or more than two lymph node areas involved) and all patients in stage IIIA Hodgkin's lymphoma were randomized to receive two cycles of COPP/ABVD or COPP/ABV/IMEP followed by extended-field radiotherapy.
Results: Both regimens produced similar rates for treatment responses (complete remission, 93% v 94%), freedom from treatment failure (80% v 79%), and overall survival (88% for both regimens) at a median follow-up time of 7 years. Most serious toxicities during chemotherapy were similar in both regimens. However, World Health Organization grade 3 and 4 leukocytopenia occurred significantly more frequently in the COPP/ABV/IMEP arm (53% v 44% of patients; P =.010). There were no differences in the number of serious infections and toxic deaths during therapy. The number of second malignancies was also the same in both arms (22 each).
Conclusion: Alternating COPP/ABVD and rapid alternating COPP/ABV/IMEP in combination with extended-field radiotherapy are equally effective in intermediate-stage Hodgkin's lymphoma and produce excellent long-term treatment results.