The clinical significance and implications of absence of alopecia and/or neutropenia in patients treated with chemotherapy for malignant disease is unknown. We hypothesized that there is a common mechanism of resistance to the effects and the adverse effects of anticancer treatment, which may have clinical implications. To evaluate this hypothesis, we conducted a retrospective analysis of the charts of 17 consecutive patients with Hodgkin's disease who received at least 4 courses of combination chemotherapy (ABVD or MOPP/ABV). Twelve patients underwent complete alopecia while 5 patients retained their hair or had only minimal hair loss. The two groups had similar pretreatment characteristics. Ten (83%) of the patients with alopecia achieved complete remission as compared with 2 (40%) of the patients who retained their hair (P = 0.11). Also, patients without alopecia had fewer episodes of neutropenia (0% vs 33%, P = 0.02), delays of scheduled treatments (0% vs 66%, P = 0.02) or number of courses with dose reductions (20% vs 41%, P = 0.39). These differences shows a clear trend which did not reach statistical significance due to the small number of patients. We suggest that, in intensively treated patients with Hodgkin's disease, the absence of alopecia may predict a poor response to treatment. Also, patients without alopecia probably have fewer episodes of leukopenia, deferral of treatment courses or number of courses with dose reductions. We hypothesize that there is a common mechanism of resistance to cytotoxic agents that may prevent apoptotic death in both normal and malignant cells.