- High dose chemotherapy and autologous stem cell transplantation are widely used in relapsed and primary refractory Hodgkin's disease. We transplanted 42 patients with Hodgkin's disease between 1990-1998. Median follow-up was 31 months (range 1-102). 29 (69%) were transplanted after relapse and 13 (31%) were refractory to first line therapy. Median age at transplantation was 29 years (range 19-58) and 23 (55%) were males. All were treated with the BEAM protocol (carmustine, etoposide, cytarabine and melphelan). 18 who were in remission received radiotherapy following transplantation. The source of the stem cells was bone marrow in 17% and peripheral blood in 83%. At initial diagnosis: 57% had stage III-IV disease and B symptoms were present in 52%. 75% were treated with MOPP, ABVD or with related versions. Radiotherapy followed in 52%. Prior to transplantation, 45% of the relapsed group were in the advanced stage. 33% and 12% of all patients had lung and bone involvement, respectively. The complete remission rate was 86% for the 2 groups. 2 (5%) died from transplant-related complications and MDS/AML developed in 2 (5%) after transplantation. The 3-year overall survival (OS) and disease-free survival (DFS) were 68% and 60%, respectively. The 3-year OS for the relapsed group was 64% compared with 76% for the refractory group, and the 3-year DFS for the relapsed group was 60% vs. 42% for the refractory group (neither difference significant). Radiotherapy following transplantation did not have a beneficial effect on DFS. No prognostic factors for outcome of transplantation were found, most probably due to the limited number of patients and the high variability of disease characteristics. We conclude that high dose chemotherapy and autologous stem cell transplantation are effective and relatively safe for relapsed or primary refractory Hodgkin's disease. The DFS at 3 years was longer for those transplanted after relapse than those with primary refractory disease, but not significantly. Patients with primary refractory disease can be salvaged with high dose chemotherapy.