KEYTRUDA for Hodgkin Lymphoma

About Hodgkin Lymphoma

If you have been diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma (cHL), or you know somebody who has, it’s likely you are trying to learn as much as possible about the disease and its treatments. This section of the KEYTRUDA website will help to answer many of your questions.

What is Hodgkin Lymphoma?

Hodgkin Lymphoma, also called Hodgkin disease, is a blood cancer that starts in the lymphatic system. It affects the white blood cells (lymphocytes) that help your immune system fight invaders. As the disease progresses, it becomes more difficult for your body to overcome infections.

For younger patients who are diagnosed with early-stage disease, a complete cure is often possible. Advanced stage Hodgkin Lymphoma can also be treated successfully in a high proportion of patients.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of Hodgkin Lymphoma are similar to those of a virus. They include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, under the arms or in the groin
  • Regular and frequent fevers
  • Excessive sweating, especially at night
  • Weight loss
  • Persistent lack of energy
  • Itchiness

How is it diagnosed?

The first step is a blood test, to check for abnormalities. As well as looking for malignant blood disease, this blood test provides a blood cell count and indicates how the kidneys and liver are functioning.

Diagnosis is confirmed with a lymph node biopsy. A lymph node is removed and examined in the laboratory. If lymphoma is present, the biopsy can determine whether it is low, intermediate or high grade. The lymphoma may be in one area (stage 1) or it may have spread throughout the body (up to stage 4). Other tests may include a lumbar puncture, bone marrow biopsy, CT scan, MRI scan and PET scan.

Treatment for Hodgkin Lymphoma

Treatment for each person is determined by age, general health, type of lymphoma and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. The aim is to bring the disease into remission. Until recently, the main treatments were chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a stem cell transplant. Now, immuno-therapy with KEYTRUDA is also a possible treatment.

Immuno-oncology treatment for Hodgkin Lymphoma with KEYTRUDA

In New Zealand, KEYTRUDA is approved, but not funded, for certain patients with classical Hodgkin Lymphoma. It may be used when another type of treatment didn’t work or when cHL has returned after receiving three or more other types of treatment. Because the treatment is not full funded it means the patient may need to pay towards their treatment, depending on a number of factors, which you can read about on the Access KEYTRUDA page.

Questions to ask your doctor about Hodgkin Lymphoma


How to access KEYTRUDA


KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) 50mg powder for infusion
KEYTRUDA is a Prescription Only Medicine Use: KEYTRUDA is used:
  • in the treatment of melanoma which cannot be removed by surgery alone or when it has spread to multiple sites in the body.
  • in the treatment of a kind of lung cancer called non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
  • in the treatment of classical Hodgkin Lymphoma (cHL)
  • in the treatment of urothelial carcinoma, including bladder cancer
  • in the treatment of a kind of head and neck cancer called head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC)

Side effects: Immune-mediated side effects including inflammation of the lungs, colon, liver, kidneys, pituitary gland, brain, eye, muscles, nervous system, pancreas, and heart, thyroid disorders, type 1 diabetes mellitus. Severe skin reactions including Steven-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis. Severe infusion reactions including hypersensitivity and anaphylaxis. Transplant recipients: rejection of a transplanted organ, graft-versus-host-disease (in people with a bone marrow transplant using donor cells). Very common side effects include diarrhea, nausea, itching, rash, joint pain, back pain, feeling tired, cough, patches of discoloured skin, stomach pain, decreased levels of sodium in blood. Tiredness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, shortness of breath, rash, itching, headache, hair loss, and, infections of the upper respiratory tract were reported when given in combination with chemotherapy. You may experience more than one side effect at the same time.

All medicines have risks and benefits. Talk to your doctor to see if KEYTRUDA is right for you. KEYTRUDA is a funded medicine for melanoma patients– restrictions apply. KEYTRUDA is an unfunded medicine for NSCLC, HNSCC, cHL and urothelial carcinoma patients. Ask your health professional the cost of the medicine and any other medical fees that may apply. Use only as directed and if symptoms continue or you have side effects, see your doctor, pharmacist, or health professional.

Based on data sheet prepared 17 July 2018. Marketed by: Merck Sharp & Dohme (New Zealand) Limited, Newmarket, Auckland. . For additional product information, consult the Consumer Medicine Information (CMI), available on request, phone 0800 500 673 or refer to the Medsafe website

This site is intended for New Zealand residents.

References to support this are available on request.

MSD recommends people always seek the medical advice of their healthcare professional.

Copyright © 2018 Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, New Jersey, USA. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2018 Merck Sharp & Dohme (New Zealand) Limited. Level 3, 123 Carlton Gore Road, Newmarket, Auckland. All rights reserved.

ONCO-1273154-0000 First Issued November 2017 TAPS NA10076 essence MSD8360

Updated: October 2018